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Kauri Dieback Disease Continues to Devastate Iconic Trees

For immediate release - Friday 19 November 2010

Kauri Dieback Disease Continues to Devastate Iconic Native Trees While Kiwifruit Cash Crop Gets Millions to Fight Psa

The Government yesterday decided to hand over $25 million to the kiwifruit industry to tackle the PSA disease, with no requirement for a business case to be developed.

The kiwifruit industry contributes $1.5 billion to the NZ economy annually2.
In comparison tourism contributes $18.6 billion to the NZ economy per year, of which $8.3 billion is from international visitors3.

One of the top attractions for visitors, and described as "one of the world's oldest trees", the iconic Kauri is a symbol of New Zealand and on the itinerary of virtually every tour of the country.

Yet Kauri are under serious threat of extinction from the little understood and rapidly spreading microscopic mould Phytophthora taxon agathis (PTA), which is already rampant throughout the Waitakere Ranges and Northland, including being found within 500m of Tane Mahuta.

The Government allocated only $4.7 million4 to be spread over 5 years to both research and fight this disease, which is brand new to science, and about which almost nothing is known.

MAF were required to produce a business case to justify any expenditure on fighting Kauri PTA and they based their cost benefit analysis on the timber value of Kauri, not on a realistic estimate of the contribution the trees make to the tourism economy.

The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society says Kauri should be better protected from this threat for their intrinsic and ecological value alone, and that the threat to the New Zealand economy from Kauri PTA is being drastically underestimated. By under-funding the research programme, increasing the risk of extinction, the Government risks serious damage to our clean green image.

"Kauri are critical to the health of our Northern forests" says Society President John Edgar. "We devastated the forests once for timber. If we lose the Kauri this time because we didn't invest enough in fighting this disease the whole world will know our shame. As well as the intrinsic loss, our tourism and our 'clean green' exports will be affected. It's the forest equivalent of making a dolphin species extinct. We need to prioritise our native treasures above an agricultural crop because they are unique \ and can never be replaced. We can always plant more kiwifruit vines."

The Society is calling for the Government to provide more money for research into Kauri PTA disease before it is too late. John Edgar says "Kauri PTA has spread out of control and MAF, DoC and the Regional Councils have insufficient resources to fight it".


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