Kauri dieback disease needs to be taken seriously and the public needs to care about what is happening.

At a recent Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) meeting over the problem of our dying kauri trees in Whangārei barely anyone attended. A rough head count revealed only 30 people were present.

I would not count myself as a tree hugger, but more a tree lover with thousands of trees planted on-farm in my time by my parents and me. Not to brag but a great aunty of my father's, Ellen W Blackwell, wrote the book Plants of New Zealand, first published in 1906.

As a proud owner of a few kauri stands it comes as a huge disappointment we have no way of eradicating this disease - at best we are slowing the spread as it takes out trees which can be more than 1000 years old.

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A kauri dieback shoe-cleanig gate at the Rainbow Falls track, Kerikeri. Photo/Peter de Graaf
A kauri dieback shoe-cleanig gate at the Rainbow Falls track, Kerikeri. Photo/Peter de Graaf

I recently had a call from a local walking club. They were disappointed that walking tracks through the Brynderwyns had to be closed. Humans have been found to be the biggest spreader of this disease by carrying soil by foot.

The walking club observed that wild pigs have taken over the reserve and are happily digging up the newly formed walking tracks with gusto. I expect the pigs are now the biggest threat to kauri dieback in the walking club's area.

As a farmer, I see a lot of similarities to one of our latest imports, Mycoplasma bovis, which has stretched MPI manpower to the limit. The Government took a brave and, I believe, the right approach to this newly-found cattle disease and with the help of science, we have a reasonable chance of eradication.

The existence of kauri dieback was recorded back in the 1970s on Great Barrier Island and there is some anecdotal evidence that points back as far as the 1950s, but it was in 2006 in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges when the kauri trees started dying that an investigation commenced.

With a forest with such a high volume of foot traffic we have seen this disease spread, and today it has reached forest in Northland.

I would encourage anyone who would like to have some input in protecting our giant trees of the bush to take part in the ongoing consultation meetings.

Here is a website where you can have some impact: https://www.kauridieback.co.nz/science-and-research/

Consultation is open until March 18, 2019.

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* John Blackwell is provincial president of Northland Federated Farmers.