Community control of kauri dieback: Tiaki mō kauri

  • Kauri gummosis. Image - Richard Gordon

    Kauri gummosis. Image - Richard Gordon

  • Shoe cleaning before entering the Waitakere forest. Image - Christine Harper.

    Shoe cleaning before entering the Waitakere forest. Image - Christine Harper.

  • Kauri canopy. Image - Peter Meecham

    Kauri canopy. Image - Peter Meecham

Project 2.8

Leader: Ian Horner Plant & Food Research

‘A biosecurity team of 4.7 million’ is the first of five strategic direction statements in the draft Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement for New Zealand.

The National Science Challenge for NZ’s Biological Heritage is funding two new programmes, including this one, to enlist the public’s help in dealing with the very worrying disease killing our kauri trees.


Kauri dieback disease has already killed hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of kauri trees in the North Island. New Zealanders have strong emotional and cultural attachments to kauri, and their loss is having a major impact. The mighty Kauri is symbolic of strength and longevity, and a legacy of our Gondwanaland heritage.

At a practical level, there are significant concerns about harm to people and property from dying trees, and the substantial costs (in the thousands for just one tree) of felling, and disposing of diseased trees on public and private land.

The fungus-like disease was first identified in the 1970s on Great Barrier Island. In the last ten years, it has also been found in many mainland forests and has become a serious problem. The Waitakere ranges, west of Auckland, are a particular hotspot. The most likely way of it spreading is on the bottom of our shoes, and through moving plants and soil around.

Under this project, Ian Horner from Plant & Food Research and his team will develop a programme to enable scientists, communities and mana whenua to work together on the remedial treatment of kauri trees, otherwise doomed to die. At the same time they will be contributing to our knowledge of how to manage kauri dieback. Of the control tools investigated to date, phosphite injection treatment is the most thoroughly studied and promising, but it may still be some time before research is completed, with widespread release of the treatment tools.

So in the meantime, participants in this study must apply treatments under strict protocols so scientists can properly measure its efficacy and possible side effects of the treatment, thus helping the wider research programme and the eventual roll-out of treatment tools.

Research is already underway with a pre-programme survey to find out community attitudes and responses to the trees, the disease and treatment options.

The project seeks to empower community members through their active engagement in developing and participating in treatment trials, raising wider awareness and understanding of kauri dieback and its management.

The citizen science initiative will focus on information capture to assess the effectiveness of, and problems associated with, various treatments, to benefit both the wider community and the Kauri Dieback Programme (KDP). Control treatments will focus around phosphite applications currently being investigated in formal KDP-sponsored trials. However, recognising the value that could be gained from other forms of knowledge, we will provide opportunity to scope, encourage, and test alternative practices and capture preliminary information on their efficacy, which could lay the foundation for future work. This will include Mātauranga Māori methods (e.g. Rongoā Māori) and other techniques that individuals or groups may wish to trial.

Social science research is an integral aspect of this programme. The analysis of the citizen science, collaborative learning and community engagement processes used will allow efficient adaptation of this programme, as an exemplar for future public biosecurity or conservation initiatives.

Members of the team are: Dr Ian Horner (Plant & Food Research), Lee Hill (Biosecurity Contractor), Dr Marie McEntee (Aranovus Ltd), Dr Melanie Barton (The Tree Council), Waitangi Wood (Wai Communications Ltd), Jeanie Allport (Biosecurity Contractor), Graeme Weavers (Northland Regional Council), Dr Linley Jesson (Plant & Food Research)

Keep Kauri Standing
The collaborative effort to address kauri dieback includes the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation, Auckland Council, Northland Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council , Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tāngata Whenua. We are working together as one team to ensure the integrity of kauri ecosystems remains, to protect high value kauri areas and iconic kauri trees.

Kauri Dieback Recreation Project
This project is DOC's on the ground response to the disease killing kauri trees in the North Island. It aims to control the human spread of kauri dieback on public conservation land.

What is Kauri Dieback Disease

Alison Ballance, Our Changing World, 16 May 2013

Several years ago a new plant disease was identified in New Zealand – Phytophthora taxon Agathis, also known as PTA, or kauri dieback disease, which infects and kills giant native kauri trees (Agathis australis). The effects of kauri dieback disease were first noticed 40 years ago in a stand of trees on Great Barrier Island, but the organism was wrongly identified as another species of Phytophthora and it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the late Ross Beever realised that organism was actually PTA. There is no cure and no vaccination for PTA, which is found only in New Zealand and infects only kauri trees.

What's new

Dr Ian Horner administering phosphite. Image - Plant & Food
The phosphite fight back

24 November 2017 - Whats new

Listen to Dr Ian Horner discusses Kauri dieback disease and his research to help save the iconic, taonga…

Kauri rescue logo
Kauri Dieback Community Survey

16 February 2017 - Whats new

To understand the views of communities affected by kauri dieback the Tiaki mō kauri team are inviting people…

Dr Mels Barton, left, and Dr Marie McEntee are conducting a public survey on kauri dieback disease as part of Kauri Recue. Image - Simon Smith, Fairfax NZ
New research to work out how to help kauri

10 January 2017 - Whats new

Simon Smith reports on two new studies, funded by the National Science Challenge for New Zealand's Biological Heritage,…

Kauri dieback desease. Image - NZ Herald
Why is killer disease drawn to our kauri?

10 January 2017 - Whats new

Scientists are seeking to solve one of the most intriguing mysteries of the disease that's killing our kauri…

Radio-collared rat. Image - Andrea Byrom
Research funding announcement

20 December 2016 - Whats new

The National Science Challenge for NZ’s Biological Heritage has approved six new research projects from its latest contestable…