The Government is investing $15.8 million of operating funding and $10.7 million of capital funding over the next four years to ramp up measures to protect New Zealand’s magnificent kauri forests from the dieback disease.
“Kauri is an iconic species for New Zealand and one of the oldest and largest organisms on earth. Kauri dieback is a significant threat to their survival and we need to ramp up our efforts to protect these magnificent trees,” Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
Kauri dieback disease is caused by a microscopic, fungus-like organism which infects the tree’s roots and damages the tissues that carry nutrients and water within the tree, effectively starving it to death.
Nearly all infected trees die and there is no known cure, although research is currently under way. The disease has been found in Northland, the Waitakere Ranges, Great Barrier Island, and most recently in the Coromandel.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says the disease has been in New Zealand since the 1950s, but was not formally identified until 2008.
“The Kauri Dieback Management Programme, which is a partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Department of Conservation (DOC), Auckland Council, Northland Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and northern tangata whenua, was set up with funding from Budget 2009 through to June 2014.
“This new funding follows an independent review of the programme in 2013,” Mr Guy says.
Budget 2014 provides $10.9 million for DOC operational costs over four years, $10.7 million for DOC capital costs for tracks, boardwalks and hygiene stations and $4.9 million for MPI over four years for research and management tools, as well as surveillance and co-ordination of the disease response.
“This new funding will enable DOC to upgrade 100 kilometres of high-use tracks through kauri forests, construct five kilometres of boardwalk to keep visitors away from the root system of the trees, and install over 300 hygiene stations to reduce the risk of the disease spreading,” Dr Smith says.
“This is in addition to the significant resources that DOC already contributes to the programme.”
New funding of $1.2 million a year for MPI will go towards its leadership and management of the programme.
“It will aim to keep the disease out of important forests, protect iconic individual trees such as Tāne Mahuta, and maintain effective working partnerships among the Crown agencies, iwi, regional authorities and community groups,” Mr Guy says.
“The significant increase in funding confirms our determination to ensure the survival of our magnificent kauri forests for future generations.”