“This investment will see more than 20 roles created across three years. Members of Ngati Hei, a Mercury Bay, Whitianga-based iwi, will work alongside DOC and the community to minimise the spread of kauri dieback in the Hukarahi Bloc
“Members of the iwi will be directly engaged in conservation work in their rohe, supporting their vision of a regional biodiversity park in the area.
“Work being undertaken includes more research into the scope and spread of the disease, predator control and boundary fencing.
“The 377-hectare Hukarahi Block – a habitat for several other taonga species, including kiwi – was where kauri dieback was first discovered on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was closed in 2013 to mitigate the risk of visitors spreading the disease. Unlike Auckland and Northland, where kauri dieback is more common, the block is now in a unique position of having limited infection sites.
“Supporting the employment of whanau to undertake biosecurity kaitiaki roles is a vital next step to protecting the mauri of the forest.
“Collaboration with public sector agencies, neighbouring landowners and the community will be vital parts of the work to be undertaken,” Dr Ayesha Verrall said.
Kauri are considered a taonga species for Māori and is seen as a Te Whakaruruhau (“great protector”) in the forest, with many smaller species sheltering beneath the arms of the giant trees.
There is currently no known cure or treatment for kauri dieback, but its spread can be halted through a range of measures which focus on human behaviour and ensuring the micro-organism is not spread by visitors.
“The $1.475 million project is part of the Government’s response to helping those regions most affected by COVID-19 with Jobs for Nature creating significant training and learning opportunities as well as empowering iwi and hapū to lead conservation efforts.