Kauri dieback research

The Kauri Dieback Programme has a team of people representing tangata whenua and regional councils who have skills in or a focus on environmental science, biosecurity, or mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge). They contribute to and/or manage research and monitoring projects. Currently, this group is focusing on:

  • Learning more about how the disease is spread
  • Better understanding where the disease is and isn’t, so resources can be targeted more effectively
  • Sharing, and aligning mātauranga Māori with other science work, accessing the best advice and guidance and prioritising knowledge gaps
  • Building new or improving tools to support people, groups, and businesses in avoiding spreading the disease 
  • Looking at how regulatory tools could be better used.

Although a great deal of research has already been done, there are still some gaps in our knowledge of where kauri dieback is, and where it isn’t. When we find an infected tree we take soil samples from a wide area around it to see how far it has spread, but this hasn’t always given an accurate answer. Testing is also expensive, and carries the risk of spreading new infections.

We know that the spores can survive for several years above ground – but we haven’t identified how long they live for.

Some people have suggested using fungicides or chemicals to kill kauri dieback, but they may not be effective against this one-of-a-kind Phytophthora. Most importantly we cannot use any chemicals without thoroughly testing them, as they may cause irreversible damage to kauri and the wider environment, including waterways. Sterigene has been tested and approved as a disinfectant for footwear and equipment. It is biodegradable and non-toxic. The safety data sheet for Sterigene can be found in our Documents and Resources section.

some OF THE SCIentific WORK underway

- Carrying out aerial disease surveillance, and following up with soil sampling as required.

- Developing a method to identify kauri trees, and establishing whether they may be infected or not, on the basis of imagery captured by sensors on satellites and fixed-wing aircraft. 

- Finding out where Phytophthora agathidicida may have come from, if it did not originate in New Zealand (this includes investigating if similar trees in New Caledonia also suffer from dieback).

Establishing a geodatabase showing the locations of natural stands of kauri as well as information on their abundance, composition, maturity and vector risk.



- Researching the role historic activities may have played in the spread of the disease.   

- Investigating if any mātauranga Māori rongoā could be useful for either individual kauri or kauri ngahere mauri.

- Establishing if the chemical phosphite can be used to reduce the impacts of the pathogen (phosphite is a possible treatment in isolated cases. It is not a cure).

- Testing the use of cultural health indicators as a way to measure the state of health of kauri ngahere, and so the presence and impact of the disease. 

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