Kauri killer keeping kiwis awake at night

Kauri killer keeping kiwis awake at night

A major new survey has found an overwhelming proportion of people living in Auckland, Waikato, Northland and the Bay of Plenty consider that preventing the spread of kauri dieback is of high importance.

Almost ninety per cent of all those surveyed by Colmar Brunton agreed that it is "important" or "very important" to manage kauri dieback, even given the other threats to kauri forests.

The survey also found that 43 per cent of forest users are committed enough to stopping kauri dieback to have asked others to take action to prevent its spread.

Sixty seven per cent of residents were found to be aware of kauri dieback, as opposed to just 31 per cent in 2011.

However ten per cent of those who said they had not been near kauri in the previous year proved to have been mistaken.

"That is a worry because kauri are common in native forests in the upper North Island," says Jay Harkness, Engagement and Communications Lead for the Kauri Dieback Programme.

"So the basic message is that if you're in the upper North Island, and you're in native bush, you clean your footwear and other gear before going into a forest and before leaving it, every single time. People also need to use tracks, and stick to them.

"What's also of concern is the way in which people think kauri dieback is spread. For instance, 19 per cent of the forest users surveyed thought that dieback is spread on the wind. That's just not true," Jay Harkness says.

"While it is true that kauri dieback can be spread by less than a pinhead of soil, it's humans that are the number one way in which the disease is spread.

"The good news is that kauri dieback is within everyone's ability to control, that people are talking about dieback in their networks, and that people are serious about preventing the spread of the disease," Jay Harkness says. "Because kauri are a cornerstone species, whole forests are dependent on our communities getting involved in the issue - which they are doing on a large scale."

A kauri tree shows no signs of infection until its canopy starts to die, and often when bleeding lesions appear on its trunk. Research indicates that most if not all infected trees eventually die of the disease. There is no cure for kauri dieback.

Meanwhile the fungus-like pathogen that causes kauri dieback has been renamed.

It is now officially known as Phytophthora agathidicida (all italics). The pathogen used to be known as Phytophthora taxon agathis, or PTA, a taxonomic name that was temporarily assigned to the pathogen when it was first identified in 2008.

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