27 Jan 2018

Iwi 'reserves judgement' over kauri dieback measures

6:21 am on 27 January 2018

People who fail to clean their shoes properly in areas with kauri dieback could face penalties as the Ministry for Primary Industries ups the ante on the fight against the disease.

DOC cleaning station at a track entrance in Waipoua Forest.

A DOC shoe-cleaning station at a track entrance in Waipoua Forest. Scientists are still not sure if they work to prevent the spread of kauri dieback. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The ministry announced a series of high-level measures yesterday after criticism it was not doing enough to fight the virulent fungus-like condition.

Chief operating officer Roger Smith said it would put Controlled Area Notices in place as it did for the Queensland fruit fly in Auckland, and pea weevils in Wairarapa.

That meant it would be able to beef up restrictions such as legally requiring people to clean their shoes at the bush track stations aimed at preventing spread.

While the ministry had not decided which areas would be controlled, Auckland's Waitākere Ranges was one of the worst affected.

The local mana whenua, Te Kawerau ā Maki, placed a rāhui on entering the ranges to try to prevent people spreading the disease, but it can not be legally enforced.

The iwi's executive manager Edward Ashby said he hoped Waitākere would become a controlled area, but the iwi was cautious about what exactly that would mean.

Te Kawerau ā Maki announced a rāhui to discourage people from visiting the Waitakere Ranges in a bid to stop the spread of kauri dieback.

Te Kawerau ā Maki placed a rāhui to discourage people from visiting the Waitākere Ranges in a bid to stop the spread of kauri dieback. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

He said the new measures seemed good but the devil is in the detail, and the iwi had seen so little action on dieback that it would reserve judgement.

"We've had, in my opinion, a rather useless national kauri dieback programme for a number of years and I'm concerned that this is a little bit more of the same," he said.

He questioned the value of clamping down on shoe cleaning, which had not been proven to be effective.

"Our view is very clear. The forest is sick, it's dying. We need research, we need funding to upgrade the tracks ... there are a range of things and until they are done our approach has always been 'close all of the tracks'."

The Ministry said it would also introduce a National Pest Management strategy giving kauri dieback same biosecurity status as the kiwifruit disease PSA, or bovine tuberculosis, which mostly means a boost to funding and resources.

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