28 May 2021

Fears new kauri dieback funding will be chewed up by bureaucracy

7:02 am on 28 May 2021

Kauri conservationists fear bureaucracy will suck up new funding from Budget 2021.

Over the Waitākere forest canopy it's not hard to see the damage kauri dieback has done.

Over the Waitākere forest canopy it's not hard to see the damage kauri dieback has done. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

A total of $28 million has been allocated for a National Pest Management Plan to fight kauri dieback.

Government departments started working on the plan in 2017 but it is still incomplete.

The pathogen is threatening kauri with extinction and it is not known exactly how far it has spread.

Northland Regional councillor Jack Craw said he was grateful the funding was allocated but it was "manifestly inadequate".

The bulk of the money should go to community conservation groups and iwi who did the grassroots and "treeroots" work, he said.

"We really want all of that money to be spent on the ground."

Te Roroa Trust oversees ngahere between the Kaipara and Hokianga Harbours, including Waipoua Forest, home of our largest known living kauri, Tāne Mahuta.

General manager Snow Tāne was pleased to see new funding and opportunities to protect the taonga species but he was also hoping to see more allocated.

Snow Tane of Te Roroa wories about the effect of Kauri die-back on the Waipoua Forest.

Snow Tāne. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Despite the government delays and limited funds, Te Roroa has put years of mahi into protecting kauri trees with extensive cleaning protocols, hygiene stations and PPE use.

Te Roroa has a team of five dedicated to kauri ora and research, on top of the forest maintenance and nursery teams.

"We have front-footed this from a number of years ago when we saw that the response coming in from Crown agencies wasn't strong enough," Tāne said.

Plant researcher Dr Nick Waipara said grassroots community groups, iwi and hapū knew how to make the money stretch the most.

"The locals know where the issues are, who the vectors are, the local nuances of that community that need to be addressed to help protect the kauri."

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said the management plan would focus on ground operations, forest health and supporting tangata whenua.

The Budget money was "a big step forward" but getting to this point had been a challenge, he said.

"The National Pest Management Plan idea was parked for a while because people thought we should spend that money on the ground. But now stakeholders generally agree that the authority needed to intervene only comes through a National Pest Management Plan."

O'Connor will announce specifics of the plan in July, and he was confident the government would keep backing kauri protection.

Kauri dieback infects roots and stops trees from absorbing water and nutrients.

Scientists first noticed the symptoms in our forests in the 1970s.

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