Govt gives up on eradicating kauri disease
Saturday 23 Feb 2013 4:55 p.m.
The Government has given up trying to get rid of a disease that is threatening to wipe out the entire kauri population.
Documents obtained by 3 News show the Government does not believe kauri dieback can be eradicated.
But the Opposition says that's just an excuse the Government is using to wash its hands of the problem.
It's been called the AIDS of the tree world, and for good reason – there is no cure for kauri dieback.
It's sweeping through forests across the North Island, killing thousands of kauri trees.
“If you got up in a plane and looked down on the Waitakere Ranges, it makes you weep to see these trees all dying,” says John Edgar of the Waitakere Protection Society.
The Waitakere Ranges, west of Auckland, is one of the worst hit areas.
The Ministry for Primary Industries has spent $5 million fighting the disease, but says it's now too widespread to eradicate.
Documents released under the Official Information Act say it has given up trying to get rid of the disease, as "we know now that there is little hope of eradicating it". The ministry says the current programme has too many resources and needs to be scaled back, and it could be up to 100 years before the spread of the disease is halted.
But Labour's Phil Twyford says we may not have 100 years to save the kauri.
“I think in the next 50 years [it will be under control],” he says. “I'm not a scientist, but the scientists tell me it's not too much of a stretch to say that.”
Scientists say the work they've done over the past five years is only now beginning to bear fruit.
“They've identified the organism that's creating the disease and they have come up with some ways of maybe controlling it,” says Mr Edgar.
They're seeking an additional $15 million for research and management of the disease – money they say would be well spent so future generations can enjoy the tree known as the giant of the forest.
But the Ministry for Primary Industries says it won't be taking another funding bid to Cabinet, and any future funding will come from existing Budgets.