Several tracks and areas in the Kaimai Range have closed after the pathogen responsible for kauri disease was discovered.
Department of Conservation (DOC) said, in a statement, provisional positive test results had detected Phytophthora agathidicida (PA) on a track near the Wharawhara entrance of Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park, near Tauranga.
This means some tracks will be closed immediately.
DOC said the test results, found as part of soil sampling on the track, were unexpected and were significant as PA had previously been undetected in the Kaimai Mamaku ranges.
“We are working with iwi to support a rāhui with formal track and forest closures. The closures will allow us time to conduct further testing in the area and to make informed decisions for what might happen next,” Jade Kinghazel, operations director of Eastern North Island, said.
“By restricting access, we are trying to limit any further spread of the pathogen that causes the disease, which is carried on as little as a pinhead of soil.
“We understand how special it is to have Rakau Rangatira such as kauri within the rohe, we all have a role to play in protecting these special giants.
“Together with Iwi and local communities we are committed to doing what we must to limit further spread of the pathogen – an all-hands-on deck approach to respect the rāhui will be key as we navigate forward over the next while,” Kinghazel said.
A review on the closures would be made after September 29.
The rāhui and closure would allow DOC time to put together an investigation plan and conduct testing in the area to understand further the potential spread of the disease and the risk it presented to kauri within the wider Kaimai landscape.
This would inform whether greater mitigation protection measures were needed.
At this stage there are no other known positive sites within the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park, DOC said.
The samples were collected as part of a targeted four-year soil sampling programme led by DOC. Targeted soil sampling had been focused on testing the kauri track mitigations and hygiene measures in place to prevent the spread of PA.
Once claimed to be the “most diverse forest ever encountered” by forest research surveyors, the Kaimai marks the northern limit of plants such as kamahi, alpine flora, red beech and silver beech, and the southern limit of kauri.
This combination of plants makes the forest unique and highly valued for its ecosystem diversity.
The tracks and areas closed from July 21 are:
· Waitengaue Track
· Waitengaue to Upper Waitawheta Track
· Upper Waitawheta Track
· Lindemann to Cashmore’s Clearing Track
· Lindemann Loop Track
· Wharawhara Tramway Track
· North-South Track to Waiorongomai
· Te Rereatukahia Hut Track
· Wharawhara Link Track
· North-South Track (Rereatukahia to Tuahu)
· Tuahu Track (east)
· Tuahu Kauri Loop Track
· North-South Track (Tuahu to Thompsons Track)
· Sentinel Rock Lookout Track
· Eliza Mine Loop Track to Thompsons