Supermodel Rachel Hunter joins fight against kauri dieback disease

Supermodel Rachel Hunter has joined the fight against kauri dieback disease in Auckland and wants the public to respect the rāhui  in place in the Waitākere  Ranges.

"Clearly it has great importance with the iwi being the lord of the forest," she said.

Te Kawerau ā Maki, the mana whenua of the Waitākere ranges, put a rāhui  or customary prohibition in place to urge people to stay out of the forest and allow the trees to regenerate.

"There is a reason they are doing that, they know this land better than anybody else and when iwi and Māori do that you have to listen. I have great respect and admiration that they are such guardians to our land," Ms Hunter said.

The Waitākere forest is the most heavily infected in the country, with 19 percent of kauri trees showing risk of kauri dieback disease.

There is no known cure for the disease and it's mainly spread by people walking through contaminated soil.

Te Kawerau ā Maki executive manager Ed Ashby said the iwi sees the kauri as an ancestor, as a king of the forest and as a keystone species which provides protection for a range of plant species, animals and invertebrates.

"What this is fundamentally about, it's not about Te Kawerau, it's not about council...it's about the kauri and it's about the forest and the key message is around behaviour change," Mr Ashby said.

He said people need to understand "that they have a role to play as guardians as kaitiaki as well, looking after this forest and really taking ownership and actually supporting us to look after this because it's a beautiful environment."

The Auckland City Council is advising people to respect the rāhui  and it has closed a number of medium- to high-risk tracks.

It recently voted to close the forested area of the Waitākere  Ranges Regional Park with some exceptions, despite the iwi rāhui  covering the entire forest.

"We are the guardians of these incredible places and if we don't start looking after them we're going to have nothing," Ms Hunter said.

"That's our job as human beings to guard and protect nature because it provides such incredible resources for us, and cities need to be responsible as far as sustainability is concerned with the surrounding ecosystem that exists."

The council is consulting with mana whenua and key stakeholders, with a final decision to be made on April 10.

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