Critical research to be accelerated

Kauri dieback and myrtle rust research to be accelerated
Media Release: 20 November 2018  

The BioHeritage Challenge is focused on making significant and rapid progress in the fight against myrtle rust and kauri dieback following new government investment announced today.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced a funding increase of $13.75 million over three years from the Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) for research to combat the spread of kauri dieback and myrtle rust. The BioHeritage Challenge is developing the platform plan for the SSIF.

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

The new investment will be used to focus and accelerate the work already being done by Government agencies, councils, research providers, Māori and interest groups. A high-level strategy is currently being developed by the BioHeritage Challenge.

The strategy will align with BioHeritage’s three big goals – whakamana, tiaki, whakahou (empower, protect, restore) – and the research priorities already identified by the kauri dieback and myrtle rust Strategic Science Advisory Groups (SSAGs).

BioHeritage Kaihautū Dr Nick Waipara, of Plant & Food Research, says a core group of people with diverse expertise is being brought together to develop the strategy and subsequent workplan.

“While details are still being confirmed, it’s our intention to work closely with all key players as the strategy is developed. There has already been a lot of careful thinking about research needs in these areas and it’s our intention to build on this – not start from scratch.”

Nick says kauri dieback and myrtle rust are critical threats to New Zealand’s environment and the team is acutely aware of how urgently something needs to be done to stop the diseases spreading.

“The investment will be used to ensure those working on fighting these pathogens are even more connected – accelerating the work being done in this area.

“Connecting experts from diverse institutions is what National Science Challenges are all about – we independently focus collective thinking on nationally significant problems such as kauri dieback and myrtle rust. An integral part of this is to work closely in partnership with Māori.

“While we’re realistic about what can be achieved in three years, we feel confident that our collective approach will help make a big difference for Aotearoa.”