A Kiwi researcher has launched a petition urging the closure of all kauri forests, over fears current measures aren't enough to save the ancient giants from a killer disease.

The call by Victoria University's Dr Matt Hall comes days after Forest & Bird shut all of its reserves that have kauri trees and urged the Government to do the same.

The Department of Conservation was eyeing dozens of new track closures across at-risk areas, but insisted blocking access to all kauri forests wasn't needed.

Hall nonetheless argued a full-scale ban was required to prevent people spreading kauri dieback disease until alternative, tried and tested strategies were in place.


Auckland Council has already closed much of the Waitakere Ranges and high-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges to combat the soil-borne scourge, which has infected kauri throughout Auckland, the Coromandel and Northland's Waipoua Forest.

"I do not make the call lightly, and acknowledge that, as with the Waitakere closures, this could have significant economic impacts on people," Hall said.

"However, the situation is so urgent now that we need to act."

DoC, which this year classified kauri as "threatened" for the first time, had surveyed the entire 735km network of its managed tracks in kauri forests.

More than 50 high priority tracks had been upgraded, and to date DoC had closed 13 tracks and four reserves.

Thirty-four more tracks have been proposed for full or partial closure, with a final decision to be announced at the end of next month.

Hall said while that move was positive, the process was still taking too long and didn't go far enough to cover all forests.

"DoC's criteria are that closures have only been considered in areas of 'high kauri dieback risk, low visitor use, high upgrade and ongoing maintenance costs, and a similar experience provided in the vicinity'," he said.

"If the health and continued existence of kauri forests is the primary concern, the closures need to be extended to include all forests."

He was particularly concerned for our most famous kauri, Tane Mahuta.

"Tane mahuta and other majestic kauri in the forest draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, mainly international visitors, to the Waipoua forest."

"The sheer number of people visiting the site poses a real risk of contamination, through visitors straying off paths, or not cleaning boots."

DoC's director of national operations, Hilary Aikman, maintained that the risk of further spread due to humans in kauri forests on public conservation land was low, "as long as people do the right thing".

"Cleaning footwear and gear and staying on the track is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease."

Aikman said all areas where kauri stood were treated as potentially contaminated - and the Waipoua was especially tightly managed.

"The Tane Mahuta site is one of the most well mitigated areas in the country and is protected by boardwalks, cleaning stations and local ambassadors monitoring and managing for the risk."

But Hall feared that, without eliminating the risk of exposure, it was only a matter of time.

"Why take any risk with the life and health of our most iconic living being?" he said.

"I have two young daughters and cannot imagine having to explain to them that we let Tane Mahuta die because we didn't do enough to stop kauri dieback."