As part of a protection programme to mitigate the spread of kauri dieback disease, three Bay of Islands' forest tracks will be closed for up to six weeks to allow Department of Conservation (DOC) staff to complete the work.

The Kerikeri River Scenic Reserve, Puketi Nature Trail and Opua Kauri Walk are three of around 200 tracks from Tauranga north with kauri that DOC says are in need of protective action over the next three years.

The Bay of Islands' work is a collaborative effort between the Ministry for Primary Industries, DOC, councils, iwi and community conservation groups, and the district's tracks are the first to receive special treatment.

"The wet and muddy nature of sections of the tracks in this region enhance the risk of users spreading the spores," said DOC northern North Island operation manager Sue Reed-Thomas.


NZ Track Works will lay geoweb (a plastic membrane webbing that allows the roots to grow through while reducing mud and the risk of spore cross-contamination) in the three tracks initially and eventually in seven of the region's tracks in total. Bark, sterilised by steam-cleaning, will be placed on top of the geoweb and some boardwalks will be upgraded.

In an initiative to promote public awareness of not just kauri dieback disease but other endangered plants and species, DOC and Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry late last year appointed Nicola Toki from Christchurch as the country's sole threatened species ambassador. She is sponsored by Air New Zealand and travels the country to spread the word.

Mrs Toki said in New Zealand there are an estimated 985 threatened species and a further 2700 identified as at-risk and it's her job to raise that awareness.

"It would be a national tragedy if kauri is left to die. Even touching certain kauri can spread disease so we have to learn not to love our kauri trees to death but to harness that love and turn it into preservation," she said.

Richard Balm, heading up the Kauri Dieback Project for DOC, said most people did not understand the severity of the problem.

"The disease hasn't been identified in the Kerikeri Basin but in New Zealand there are 200 tracks covering 750 kilometres and when you consider that 120,000 people visit Tane Mahuta in Northland each year you can see why protection is a priority."