Giants under threat: Bleak warnings over kauri dieback revealed

The Minister for Biosecurity has been warned repeatedly the Kauri Dieback Programme is "not delivering" the protection kauri forests need, Government documents released to Newshub reveal.

Stakeholders and partner agencies are frustrated at the decision-making process, the documents show.

In December, Damien O'Connor was told the programme needs a "fundamental change in approach" in order to slow the spread of the disease.

"All naturally occurring kauri could succumb to the disease if the disease is left unmanaged," a February update warned.

There is no known cure to the disease, which slowly kills kauri. It's most recently been confirmed just 60 metres from sacred Tane Mahuta in Waipoua forest, and identified in Tairua in the Coromandel.

It's found in 19 percent of kauri in the Waitakere Forest.

Warnings about the failure to protect kauri are repeated throughout briefings from December to March.

"There is a general acknowledgement that the Kauri Dieback Programme is not delivering the increased level of protection that is now required for kauri forests, nor is it meeting stakeholders' expectations.

"Some partner agencies are also frustrated with the decision-making process," a briefing paper prepared for Cabinet warned in March. The warning was an almost word-for-word repetition of advice issued twice in December.

The Kauri Dieback Programme is jointly run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Department of Conservation, councils in Northland, Waikato, BOP and Auckland and local tanga whenua.

Once a National Pest Management Plan is in place, MPI will run the response.

Mr O'Connor says that will be the "fundamental change in approach" MPI was calling for.

"That decision should have been made a lot time ago. It wasn't. We are now getting on with it," Mr O'Connor told Newshub.

But the plan could take two years to develop. Cabinet is not expected to consider a proposed plan for 18 to 24 months, the papers show.

They also warn of low compliance rates at cleaning stations, and "no consistent approach" across the country.

MPI chief operations officer and head of Biosecurity New Zealand Roger Smith told Newshub: "There have been no delays by Government, there have been delays getting everyone to agree on the right solutions, we’ve done that now."

He said he's made a commitment to the Government to have a proposal around a new management agency by this Christmas.

"You can't just force through change. Kauri trees are important to New Zealand, to our iwi, we must go through a consultation process we have to get everyone engaged, everyone supportive of what we do. Forcing change will not be sustainable change."

For years now, scientists have been calling for kauri forests to be urgently closed to protect the health of uninfected kauri, but response has been slow and patchy.

"Kauri is in crisis. It'll be functionally extinct within 30 years," Former biosecurity manager for Auckland Council Jack Craw said.

"MPI hasn't effectively managed the disease from day one."

Forest and Bird closed off 250 hectares of its own land to protect kauri last week, saying the Government's response to dieback has been disgraceful.

Its CEO Kevin Hague said: "At no time have MPI or the other agencies involved seemed to grasp the seriousness or the urgency of tackling kauri dieback."