Having their photo taken hugging a cool kiwi kauri tree is a classic photo for locals and tourists alike.
But Waikato Regional Council is warning that getting up close and personal in this way can potentially increase the risk of spreading the deadly kauri dieback disease affecting our native forest giants.
“Kauri dieback is a deadly disease which is attacking our kauri and the disease is passed on with the movement of soil,” says the council’s kauri dieback project manager Kim Parker.
“Walking up to the kauri for the hug is where the danger lies, not necessarily in the hug itself. If there’s a boardwalk, not a problem, but if you’re walking in and around the soil, you could be passing on the deadly disease, or affecting the shallow kauri feeder roots,” says Kim.
“If you are heading in and around forests which have kauri, make sure you keep to the track, and thoroughly clean all the dirt of your shoes before and after the visit. And if you do feel the need to show a kauri some love remember it’s best to do this from a distance.”
Kauri dieback has so far been detected at five sites in the Waikato region, all on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Kauri are naturally found in the Waikato to about 38 degrees south – roughly a line from Kawhia to Tauranga.
The disease spreads through the movement of soil, including on footwear, hiking and biking equipment, and other sports gear.
Before and after visiting bush areas people should thoroughly wash their boots, and tramping and sports equipment, with detergent. Use of broad spectrum disinfectants like Sterigene or diluted bleach on boots and equipment can also help prevent the disease’s spread.
Cleaning the wheels of vehicles after being in bush areas is also important. The more people can avoid moving even small amounts of soil between areas the better. Even one person could be enough to spread kauri dieback to a new area. Tiny amounts of soil have been shown to have the pathogen which causes the disease.
Another strong recommendation is for people to stay on already formed tracks and avoid walking on kauri roots.
For further information on kauri dieback, please visit www.kauridieback.co.nz.
People concerned about a sick kauri should freephone 0800 NZ Kauri (0800 695 2874).