Local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki have placed a customary prohibition over the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park (WRRP) following the Kauri dieback Waitākere Ranges report by the Auckland Council. The report shows the number of native Kauri affected by the Kauri dieback disease has more than doubled in five years.
The WRRP now represents the most heavily-kauri dieback-infected area currently recorded in New Zealand.
Iwi spokesperson Te Warena Taua says, “We've seen that it's the great Kauri within this forest, all of the Kauri, are dying.”
A customary prohibition has been laid over the Waitākere forest itself (the 'ecological catchment') to quarantine or prevent human access.
“It's only right in the customs of our ancestors that we the descendants conduct the ancient prayers to place the customary prohibition within this forest,” explains Taua.
The Auckland Council report states that “of the distinct areas of kauri forest within the WRRP which are above 5ha in size, 58.3% are exhibiting symptoms of kauri dieback infection within them to some degree.”
Te Warena Taua says that as a matter of tikanga, the purpose of the rahui (customary prohibition) is to enable the environment to recuperate and regenerate without the presence and impacts of humans.
Explaining further he says the intention is to prevent and control human access until effective and appropriate research, planning and remedial work is completed to ensure the risks are neutralised or controlled.
The Council report also highlights that “the highest risk vector for the spread of the infection is soil disturbance associated with human activity via visitor tracks, bait lines and informal routes.”
“This infection is spread by humans walking in the forest with their shoes carrying the contaminated soil through the forest which is killing these trees,” says Taua.
The local iwi is calling on the Auckland Council to implement a Controlled Area Notice over Waitākere Forest to support the rahui.
“We have a lot of support from local Pākehā who live in Waitākere however the council is sitting on the fence. We have to work together in unity. If we don't, we will lose the great trees of this forest.”
On Tuesday the Auckland Council will decide on a plan of action.