Saving our Iconic Trees ­– Ngā Rākau Taketake

  • Kauri tree

    Saving the iconic kauri, pictured, and myrtaceae trees is the focus of this project.

Work is well underway on developing a programme that aims to accelerate the critical research needed to combat the spread of kauri dieback and myrtle rust.

The BioHeritage Challenge is leading development of the programme, known as Ngā Rākau Taketake ­– Saving our Iconic Trees. Its development follows the announcement of new investment, with the focus being to accelerate work already being done by Government agencies, councils, research providers, Māori and interest groups.

Kauri dieback is threatening Aotearoa New Zealand’s taonga (treasured) kauri with extinction,  and myrtle rust is threatening many iconic native species as well as plants important to primary industries. More knowledge is urgently needed to underpin future approaches and tools to fight the two pathogens.

The name Ngā Rākau Taketake reflects the historical connections Māori and other New Zealanders have with our kauri and myrtaceae trees. Taketake refers to the permanence of that relationship. This programme aims to protect and restore that relationship and connection.

Leading development and implementation of Ngā Rākau Taketake are BioHeritage Challenge Strategic Leadership Group members Dr Nick Waipara, of Plant & Food Research, and Dr Maureen O’Callaghan, of AgResearch. Nick is heavily involved with New Zealand’s kauri dieback response, while Maureen has extensive experience in leading large, complex research programmes.

Making things happen quickly is a key focus for the project team and since the announcement BioHeritage has been working closely with relevant parties to develop the programme.

At the end of January, the proposed programme was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for assessment. Feedback has been received for this and we’re working to incorporate it, to produce a final document that will provide strategic guidance for the Challenge’s investments as part of the programme.

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This additional investment is an incredible opportunity to tackle two critical threats to Aotearoa New Zealand’s iconic native trees and we intend to work respectfully in partnership with organisations and individuals already working in this field.

Via Strategic Science Advisory Groups (SSAGs) established by MPI, there has been a lot of careful thinking about research needs in the areas of myrtle rust and kauri dieback and the Challenge approach will build on this.

Ultimately, Ngā Rākau Taketake will provide a roadmap to developing the new knowledge and tools needed to empower New Zealanders to protect and restore our ngahere (forest/bush) for future generations. Its goals will be achievable within this programme’s three-year timeframe.

The BioHeritage Challenge was chosen to oversee this vital programme because of its proven track record in fostering collaboration to take ideas to impact. Read our strategy to get a better understanding of how we work.

In November 2018, the Government announced additional funding for kauri dieback and myrtle rust research, to be invested through the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, Ngā koiora tuku iho.

The new funding of $13.75 million is being allocated and managed by MBIE as a Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) Platform. It will be provided over three years, with $8.75 million allocated to kauri dieback research, and $5 million to myrtle rust research.

The funding has been provided as an initial ‘surge’ investment pending availability of further investment, with the Government committed to supporting kauri dieback and myrtle rust research long-term.

Via this SSIF Platform, Challenge investment is explicitly targeted towards providing the coordination, cohesion, and focus required to achieve significant progress within three years to combat kauri dieback and myrtle rust. It will provide the high-level framework needed to address any research gaps as quickly as possible.

Ngā Rākau Taketake will draw together a range of existing and future investments, applying the Challenge’s established processes to select priority areas for research investment. It will align with both the Challenge’s 2019–2024 Strategy and research priorities identified by the kauri dieback and myrtle rust SSAGs.