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Waitakere Kauri Dieback - Auckland Council's 5 December decision

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Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee voted on 5 December on options to address the spread of kauri dieback disease within the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. The Waitakere forest is the most heavily infected forest in the country, with the rate of infection to kauri more than doubling to at least 19% over the past few years. There is no cure for the deadly disease and evidence shows that humans are the primary vector of its spread via contaminated soil tracked on footwear. The Council's five options ranged from doing nothing to full closure of the Regional Park.

Te Kawerau a Maki placed a rahui (customary prohibition or closure) over the forest on 2 December in an attempt to contain the disease and help the environment heal while research and remedial work to the track network is undertaken along with other management tools. The rahui is still in place and is not dependent on politicians, local government or the Crown. Te Kawerau requested that Council support the rahui by closing the Regional Park and implementing a Controlled Area Notice over the forest under the Biosecurity Act. Kauri dieback experts including Dr Nick Waipara supported the temporary full closure option, which was also a final recommendation to be investigated in Council's own June 2017 report on kauri dieback. Conservation groups including Forest and Bird, The Tree Council, Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, and Friends of Regional Parks also supported the full closure option in support of the rahui.

The Committee has voted by majority to adopt an amended 'balanced' option to keep the Regional Park open and instead close several high-risk and medium-risk tracks. Under the option carried, current levels of management of the disease will continue, with some tracks upgraded over time dependent on budget secured through the Long Term Plan (see

Te Kawerau a Maki are severely disappointed that Auckland Council will not respect or support the rahui by formally declaring the forest closed and directing people to stay out until the disease is controlled. While the option adopted by the Environment and Community Committee is definitely a positive step in the right direction, it does not go far enough to ensure the protection of kauri and subsequently the protection of the forest for future generations. The demands of tourism, recreation and commercial enterprise today should not come at the cost of the environment and our taonga for the future.

Te Kawerau a Maki wishes to acknowledge and sincerely thank those Councillors that voted for the amendment to use option 5 and the Controlled Area Notice to close the Ranges and respect the rahui: Cathy Casey, John Watson, Christine Fletcher, Wayne Walker and John Walker. We also wish to thank IMSB members Renata Blair and James Brown for voting in support. We thank Jack Craw, Dr Nick Waipara, and Dr Mels Barton for their expertise and support. We also acknowledge our community partners Forest and Bird, The Tree Council, Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, and Friends of Regional Parks. Te Kawerau a Maki thanks those excellent weed and pest control community organisations that have already been signed up for warrants and are authorised to continue to operate within the ngahere: Ark in the Park, Birdsong Opanuku, Te Henga Wetland project, and Ecomatters (Kaitarakihi).

Our final acknowledgement is to the people of Auckland who have supported Te Kawerau a Maki in protecting our kauri for the future of all New Zealanders. The level of public support has been overwhelming and gratefully received. It will take a city to save this forest, and each individual has a role to play as guardians of this taonga. We respectfully ask that the public keep helping us protect the forest by respecting the rahui and staying out of the kauri forest, spreading the message to others, or supporting and joining one of the excellent community partner organisations that undertake controlled weed and pest management in the Waitakere Ranges to help it recover.

Te Kawerau a Maki will continue to push for the protection and conservation of our kauri, our forest and our environment. We will continue to seek support from our other Crown partners including DOC, MPI, and the Ministry for the Environment to get the job done.

Kia kaha kauri!