22 Aug 2019

Councils blast MPs over lack of money for Kauri dieback

7:39 am on 22 August 2019

Local councils have sent a scathing letter to government ministers complaining about the lack of money being provided to stop the spread of kauri dieback.

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Photo: RNZ / Joanna MacKenzie

The government has committed more than $20 million over four years to researching the devastating disease, but that does not cover containing the infestation.

Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty councils have since written to the Minister of Biosecurity and the Minister of Conservation, urging them to reconsider.

Chair of the Waikato Regional Council, Alan Livingston said a National Pest Management Plan for the disease was developed last year, supported by iwi, and the community.

But the plan failed to receive anything in the 2019 Budget, which meant that the Department of Conservation could not ramp up efforts to fight kauri dieback at the coalface.

Mr Livingston said it was councils who had been footing much of the kauri dieback eradication bill with more than $100m set to spent over a 10-year period.

Doug Leeder from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, said that while his region did not currently have kauri dieback, it was important to support those that do.

He said while research funding was important, preventing the current spread was also vital to protect areas like the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park.

Doctor Mels Barton from the Tree Council applauded the councils call for urgent action.

"We are running out of time quite frankly," she said.

"We've had 10 years of hand-wringing and virtually no action from the previous government and two years of this government and kauri are dying in droves."

In a statement to RNZ, the Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said officials were considering the funding requirements for the National Pest Management Plan.

"However, I must be satisfied that there will be adequate funding for at least five years before I submit the draft plan, together with its proposed funding and management arrangements, to Cabinet for approval," Mr O'Connor said.

"I expect to be able to announce funding and management arrangements in the near future."

But in the meantime, Mr O'Connor said the government was continuing to significantly invest in ways to eradicate kauri dieback.

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