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Published: 2012-12-18 00:00:00

Holidaymakers are being urged to take particular care over summer to help prevent the spread of the disease kauri dieback to the Waikato region.

Kauri dieback – formally known as Phytophtora taxon Agathis or PTA - has killed kauri in Northland, Auckland and Great Barrier Island but has so far been undetected within the Waikato Regional Council’s boundary, also home to significant kauri stands in places like the Coromandel Peninsula.

The fungal disease can be spread through the movement of soil on items like boots and tramping equipment and sports gear.

A significant soil testing programme around kauri tree sites, currently underway in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, will be completed this week to check for further signs of the disease. Results are expected in February.

Sites in the Waikato being tested include kauri stands and iconic trees on the Coromandel Peninsula and the Mamaku and Kaimai ranges. Testing involves taking soil from beneath the tree’s canopy where feeding roots are found. It is the feeding roots that are destroyed by the disease.

“These tests should confirm one way or another whether we have kauri dieback in our region,” said Waikato Regional Council biosecurity officer Jeanie McInnes.

“Obviously we’re hoping for the best and that we remain kauri dieback free. But, if we’re not, we’ll implement appropriate disease management strategies,” said Ms McInnes.

In the meantime, she urged people visiting native forest in the Waikato region where there are kauri stands to follow a range of precautionary measures to help prevent the disease’s spread.

“In particular, anyone coming into Waikato bush areas from regions with kauri dieback should obviously wash their boots and tramping and sports equipment thoroughly with detergent beforehand.

“Generally the more people can avoid moving even small amounts of soil between areas the better. Use of broad spectrum disinfectants like Trigene or diluted bleach on boots and equipment can also help prevent the disease’s spread.”

Ms McInnes said another strong recommendation was for people to stay on already formed tracks and avoid walking on kauri roots.

“Kauri are a precious taonga and the regional council is working hard with the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Primary Industries and other regional councils to prevent its spread.

“By following a few simple precautions, the public can also help preserve these mighty forest giants.”

Other general tips from the national kauri dieback prevention programme include:

  • Making sure all footwear, tools, equipment and mountain bikes are totally soil free when entering a forest area containing kauri. Cleaning at the beginning and end of each day is recommended.
  • Wheeled or tracked machinery, vehicles and ATVs pose a particularly high risk and should be cleaned thoroughly to remove soil.
  • Where possible, machinery and vehicles should remain on site for the duration of a job or project.
  • All machinery should be clean before leaving the depot for a new work site.
  • When in the field, all equipment should be cleaned before moving from one area of kauri into another.

For further information on kauri dieback, please visit the kauri dieback website