Kiwis urged to plant rātā seeds to save trees

The northern rātā is experiencing its best flowering season in decades. But the native tree is at risk and conservation groups are now warning this could be its last blast. 

Otangaroa Forest in Northland has had seven years of intensive pest control and is starting to come back to life. 

Ancient rātā trees used to tower over much of New Zealand, and there are fears this year's display could be its last. 

"The trees are now facing an uncertain future," says Dean Baigent-Mercer, Forest & Bird's Northland conservation advocate.

"Already they are heavily attacked by possums. You can see dead and dying trees across the country in areas where there is no pest control."

He says rātā, cousin of pōhutukawa, are in "states of active collapse" because most Department of Conservation forests across Northland still don't have comprehensive pest control. 

Now there's the prospect of a new danger - the fungal disease myrtle rust. This year could be the last huge flowering of northern rātā before the rust hits.  

Rātā have tiny seeds that are spread by the wind and land in the tops of other trees. But if a seed doesn't find a place to germinate, it dies. 

"This summer, because there's so many flowers, there's so many seeds," says Mr Baigent-Mercer. "So very soon, those seeds will be released and it's a big opportunity."

Forest & Bird has released a video asking the public for help. It's urging everyone to collect the seeds and plant as many as possible - a small step that could help a giant survive.