Wednesday, 13 November 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Funding delays may threaten kauri

Fears are growing for the future of Coromandel kauri with the government yet to commit any new frontline funding to combat the spread of kauri dieback.

Those battling the epidemic locally say the momentum created over the past few years in terms of public awareness is in danger of being lost, with huge uncertainly as to how initiatives such as education programmes, forest monitoring and disinfecting stations will be funded going forward.

While the government says is remains committed to tackling kauri dieback, future measures will be contained within a wider National Pest Management Plan (NPMP), which has yet to be fully costed. Advocates argue this delay is unacceptable given the urgency of the situation.

“I’m very concerned. Last year’s major review and three rounds of consultation undertaken by the Government recommended a new management agency and proposed new rules as part of a NPMP. Over 1,000 people took the time to share their views and attended the 60 hui that were held across the country. They expected the recommendations that came out of that lengthy process would be implemented, so there is widespread dissatisfaction that this hasn’t happened,” said Kauri 2000 trustee and former member of the Coromandel Kauri Dieback Forum, Vivienne McLean.

 “We’re still waiting for the five year funding commitment for the new NPMP. The new management agency will then take yet more time to set up and, in the meantime, there’s a vacuum with no new funding in this year’s budget for interim operational work, including the Department of Conservation’s frontline operations.”

Waikato Regional Council chair, Alan Livingston, said the council’s effectiveness in kauri dieback management will be, “Severely impacted without adequate central government support across all activities, including regulation, enforcement, monitoring, surveillance and soil testing.” In general, the council is responsible for managing and preventing the disease on private land, while the Department of Conservation takes care of the public estate. However, a partnership approach is vital to the success of all efforts.

Mr Livingston expressed concern that the lack of resourcing would mean DOC would be unable to step up their work on public land. A report produced by WRC in July warned of the serious consequences of an inadequate response to the ongoing threat posed by kauri dieback.

“In the absence of a well-resourced national programme, kauri dieback will continue to spread unabated in the Waikato [District]. The impact of the organism in iconic forests and highly valued ecosystems is likely to be very significant,” the report said.

WRC has joined Auckland Council, and Northland and Bay of Plenty Regional Councils in writing to the Minister of Biosecurity, Damien O’Connor, and the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, to urge reconsideration of the government’s position.

In a statement, Mr O’Connor said he was satisfied that the NPMP will provide the best management tool to protect kauri into the future. “My officials are currently considering the funding requirements for the NPMP. 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. I expect to be able to announce these arrangements in the near future,” he said.

“Biosecurity New Zealand’s Kauri Dieback Programme will continue with education, community engagement and awareness activities while work on the NPMP continues.”

The Minister also revealed that $20.75 million had been committed by the government towards strategic science in the area of kauri dieback. However, without continued action on the ground, Vivienne warned that the disease would continue to spread. “The science is promising, but we need to give the scientists more time. We need to continue to educate the public to play their part in containing this disease. Right now, we don’t even have a complete picture of where this disease is, so while there’s been progress in terms of public awareness, it’s vital to keep working to change people’s behaviour when they visit our forests. If we let the momentum slip now, all that effort could be lost,” she said.

Pictured: The Twin Kauri Scenic Reserve north of Tairua has been closed since October last year due to kauri dieback being found in the vicinity.

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