A photojournalism project foccused on those impacted.
ko Te Kawerau ā Maki te iwi, Heritage and Environment officer for Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority & Settlement Trust
In December 2017 Te Kawerau ā Maki placed a rāhui on the Waitākere Ranges. In this case, the rāhui is a temporary closure of an area (the Waitākere Ranges) as a conservation measure (the protection of kauri). The focus of the rāhui is protection rather than prohibition. The protection of kauri results in the health of the entire forest. Although there was pushback, the scientists working with the iwi were clear that the infection was spreading along tracks from humans. The iwi decided it couldn’t wait for Council to act;
“one vector of kauri dieback we can control is people. So let’s keep them out.”
When she explains how sick the trees are, Robin suddenly tears up; it takes her a few moments to recover her usual composure. The sense of worry and grief she feels about the potential loss of kauri trees is palpable. She explains the forest is a “really spiritual place” and the rāhui is about protection of a taonga (treasure): “it would be terrible if the only way our grandchildren could see these beautiful trees was in a book."
KAUMĀTUA HORI WINIKEREI GEORGE TAUA
ko Te Kawerau ā Maki te iwi, Waitākere Ranges
Walking through this forest is an emotional experience for him: he grew up in Te Henga in the early 1940s, and he and his whanau lived on what they gathered from the bush and kaimoana from the sea.
As a child, George shared the forest with the native birds – seeing kiwi in their burrows, and waiting under puriri trees for overfed kereru to fall out of them. Nowadays, George wonders how many of the walkers actually stop and appreciate the trees, such as kauri – they just walk by. He supports the rāhui on the Waitākere Ranges forest, and hopes people will learn to protect it: "This is the great forest of Tiriwa, our ancestor.”
George is the oldest living member of Te Kawerau ā Maki.
"Returning back to a place like this takes me back and it's very emotional. It takes me back to the old people that used to walk through the forest and looked after the trees. To me, putting a rāhui on the Waitākere forest, it's really great. I only hope that the people look after bush, look after our forest. Growing up in the forest we respected it, it was our Papakainga, our home. A place of healing".
FREDRIK HJELM, ARBORIST AND TREE CLIMBER
ascending to the canopy in search of healthy kauri seeds
He’s working with BioSense, mana whenua, Landcare research, Scion, and Iwi to find a strain of kauri resistant to dieback. For Fredrik, being in the canopy is an incredible experience: seeing hanging gardens of orchids in the boughs of giant trees, and hearing kauri seeds rain onto the forest floor in late summer. He far prefers climbing living trees, which move their branches in wind. Climbing a dead kauri is eerie, he says, because they’re so static.
"I'm emotionally quite engaged in it. Some of the projects I do, like climbing the trees with the different Iwi's, is more fantastic than I could ever dream. I'm humbled to be a part of it."
Fredrik is careful not to spread harmful spores, which can live for a decade if left on muddy boots. On a recent visit to the Waipoua forest, near Tāne Mahuta, Freddie washed and disinfected 400 metres of climbing rope.
KAUMĀTUA DAVE AND HIS WIFE KUIA JUNE PANIORA
ko Te Roroa te iwi, Waipoua. They are photographed sitting in the home that he and his wife June raised six of her younger siblings, five of their own children and 47 foster children.
Dave grew up in Waipoua forest, one of twelve kids in a two-room house. Like most of their neighbours, they lived off kai moana and gathering seaweed to sell.
“It was a hard life but a good life.”
At fifteen, Davey started working in forestry with his father. His father climbed kauri trees to collect their gum. Davey specialised in seed collection; he could gather 8-10 pounds in a season.
Dave used to climb the Kauri to collect seeds, images showing his boots, framed photos of him climbing a kauri tree and prized pieces of Kauri gum he found while working.
Davey’s tree-climbing boots look a bit like crampons – the front spikes stick horizontally into the trunk, and he would hold a set of sharp hooks in his hand and alternate moving his hands and feet. At the crown of the tree, he would attach a 200-metre-long rope fitted with a seat, which enabled him to swing out to the ends of branches to access the kauri seed cones.
He spent 30 years in forestry, and says back then, kauri forestry was “hard physical work” – the trees represented money to be made, not something that needed protection.
at the microscope, Scion, Rotorua
He’s been studying kauri dieback since 2012, and loves his work:
“studying biology and the natural ecosystem is fascinating, and the honour of my life”.
Phytopthora spores have to be harvested very carefully to avoid spreading them. Infected soil is flooded with water, and leaves are floated on the water’s surface as ‘bait’. Phytophthora agathidicida, or zoospores, will then swim towards the leaves, infecting them and causing lesions. The diseased leaves are then cultivated on agar plates, and treated with antibiotics to favour the spores’ growth.
When Peter looks at them down the microscope, the spores are magnified to 100-400 times their actual size. No wonder kauri dieback is such a challenge to control – these tiny spores can do great damage to our giant trees.
Several different stages of the P. agathidicida lifecycle in a single shot. In the image are zoospores (motile/swimming spores), oospores (dormant/survival spores), sporangia (disperse zoospores), and mycelial growth.
checking the kauri seedlings, Scion, Rotorua
Nari Williams is a kauri dieback expert: since 2000, her scientific research has focused on the phytopthora pathogens that cause it. She now works for Scion, a forestry-focused Crown Research Institute in Rotorua.
In the Waitākere Ranges and Waipoua forest, Williams and her colleagues have collected 20,000 seeds from healthy trees which are located amid diseased stands of kauri. It’s hoped these trees have already developed some degree of natural resistance to dieback. The seedlings gathered from these trees will be screened by Landcare NZ; if they are indeed resistant to disease, they could provide a new, and more hardy, generation of kauri ready to be planted.
For Nari there will be no “silver bullet” for the problem of kauri dieback, but she says she’s part of a research community that feels passionate about finding a solution. She also thinks it’s important to ‘zoom out’ and connect with what her work involves:
“By experimental design, we often set about killing plants – and I don’t think that should ever be taken lightly. … What we do is a pretty serious thing – most of the plants that go into the experimental trials don’t come out the other end.”
CHANTAL PROBST, TECHNICIAN
holding a kauri seedling at Manaaki Whenua, Auckland
The kauri seedling was killed by Phythophthora agathidicida, a micro-organism causing kauri dieback. Chantal is a research technician at Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research. Landcare receives kauri seedlings from Scion and inoculates them with phytophthora. If the seedling dies, its roots are tested to confirm that the phytopthora infection caused its death.
Landcare’s five-year experiment is aimed at establishing whether particular families of kauri can live longer once infected with dieback, or even survive the disease.
Chantal in the lab, with samples, confirming phytopthora is the cause of death
TAMMY DOWNES & HER DAUGHTER ELOUISE
beneath the canopy of a majestic kauri tree on their property in Laingholm
Tammy was devastated when she discovered the one hundred kauri trees on her family’s land were all infected with dieback. She has treated the trees herself with the help of Kauri Rescue volunteers. They drill holes around the trunk, inject phosphite, and leave the syringes to expel. The kauri will need ongoing treatment to prolong their lives.
For Tammy, closing the Waitākere Ranges was the only option: losing access to the forest for a time is better than losing the forest itself. “It will be brilliant for the whole area to rejuvenate.” The kauri on Tammy’s section are part of her family’s everyday life, however, she also sees dieback as a national problem since kauri are symbolic of this country. Tammy wants people to get on board and start helping
“If we lose them – if we let that happen – what are we going to say to our children and our children’s children? I want my daughter to be able to bring her children back to her house here, and I want them to be big, strong, beautiful kauri trees.”
IAN HORNER, PLANT PATHOLOGIST
treating an infected kauri with phosphite
Ian has been working on kauri dieback “since before we knew what it was”. In 2011, Ian began testing whether phosphite, a chemical used in horticulture, could help kauri seedlings survive dieback infection. The results of those tests were encouraging. Now Ian’s treating full-grown kauri in the forest, as part of his work at Plant and Food Research.
First he measures the tree’s girth (important to calculate the dose) and checks for lesions around its base, canopy health, and moss accumulation on the trunk (a bad sign, as it indicates bark isn’t growing). Finally, he drills into the trunk at regular intervals and then inserts syringes filled with phosphite.
Ian says it’s an emotional experience:
“The first time I had to inject a kauri tree, I paused for a very long time before I actually pushed the drill into it, because it just felt wrong... just because of the reverence we feel for kauri”. But the drilling doesn’t ‘hurt’ the tree – kauri resin quickly plugs the holes.
He describes the treatment as being like ‘chemotherapy for plants’ – injecting a chemical in order to to kill something that’s harming the tree. “Even better it stimulates the tree to mobilise its own defences and repel the pathogen”.
Phosphite injections and the naming of a tree after treatment.
MARTIN GRAHAM, OWNER HUIA FOODSTORE
looking out the window of the foodstore
Martin Graham owns the Huia Foodstore, near the Waitākere Ranges. His business has been hugely impacted by the track closures. As soon as the closure was imposed, he found that both the weather and the tide had to be perfect for swimming before people would come out for a swim and stop by the café.
He’s had to cut costs and reduce staff hours during the winter but has managed to avoid letting any staff go.
Martin’s a keen trail-runner so has been personally affected too: he says it’s now a lot harder to find good running trails within easy driving distance of the city.
CAM BOWEN, CANYONING GUIDE, OWNER OF AWOL ADVENTURES
working on the track to Kitekite Falls, Piha
Cam Bowen is a canyoning guide at Kitekite Falls. With its steep waterfalls, cool valleys, natural rock-pools and thick native forest, the Waitākere Ranges are a well-loved canyoning spot. For 20 years Cam and his wife have run their guiding business here. About seven years ago, they began educating their clients about kauri dieback to try to stop its spread; however, their livelihood was threatened by the track closures.
Cam and his team of guides were employed by the council to help rebuild the tracks. It was this work, offered by the Council, that has enabled his team to survive the winter. With the reopening of the track to Kitekite falls in December 2018, Cam's business was able to start operating again. He states that
"rebuilding the business will take years. People are still confused as to the status of the park".
Other small businesses, run by equally passionate people, haven’t been so lucky: some have been bankrupted, while others are barely hanging on.
Cam Bowen (right) takes a break with his canyoning guides who have also been track building
STUART LEIGHTON, AUCKLAND COUNCIL PARK RANGER
Looking out at Te Ahua Point, an area with tracks being rebuilt
Stuart Leighton, Park Ranger for Auckland Council, taking in the stunning sea views from Te Ahua Point, North along the coast. Stuart has a strong connection with this place – he has spent most of his life in the Waitakere Ranges, growing up at nearby Bethells Beach. He sees kauri as one of our most iconic trees; it’s “scary” that it is under threat.
"the fact they're under threat is really scary, and we want to do everything we can to make sure we don't lose them".
He is working in partnership with Te Kawerau a Maki to redevelop a track system that supports and enhances forest health allowing people to experience this beautiful place in a safe way.
TRACK BUILDING VOLUNTEERS
Volunteers working on the Mercer Bay Loop walk track, near Piha
The group of 25 - young and old, men and women, from all walks of life – spend a few hours together, digging trenches and lugging gravel. Foot traffic on Auckland’s Waitākere Ranges tracks has increased sharply in the last five or six years. Park Ranger Stuart Leighton is glad to see this, he loves seeing visitors “out and about, enjoying themselves”, but it puts pressure on the track infrastructure. He’s grateful that volunteers embrace this opportunity to give something back to the park.
With the help of keen volunteers, the council have now upgraded a number of trails in the Waitākere Ranges which prevent people from easily wandering off the tracks. This has been achieved by raising boardwalks - Kitikite track now has 275 meters worth of boardwalk - as well as steps, jack mat mesh and aggregate material to ensure people's feet are well above and away from kauri roots. About 100 volunteers have been involved in track maintenance days Between both Mercer Bay and Kitekite tracks.
putting fresh bait in a pest trap, in the Waitakere Ranges
Dan Roberts is upfront about it: he doesn’t like the Waitākere Ranges being closed. He grew up in Laingholm, so as a kid, exploring the bush, mangroves and mud was his ‘normal’. He says he understands the reasons for the closure, but “the Waitaks are my home, so I feel kind of shut out of my home”.
Dan has turned that frustration into something positive. He’s started volunteering with Ark in the Park, clearing and resetting pest traps. He grins and says he’s also got his Dad involved: a couple of months later his Dad has his own trap line out here and is “loving it”.
with his pig hunting dogs in Bethells, Waitākere Ranges
It’s not only humans that can spread kauri dieback: wild pigs roam the Waitākere Ranges, dig up roots, and can spread infected soil from tree to tree. With warmer winters and cooler summers, the pig population in our forests have dramatically increased. If the Auckland Council didn’t contract hunters like Glen Coulston to control pig numbers our forests would be crawling with them.
Pig hunters and their dogs can also spread kauri dieback. Glen has to be diligent about good hygiene procedures to prevent soil transfer by keeping his boots clean, wearing removable shoe protectors when he’s walking through stands of kauri and avoiding visibly diseased kauri trees.
Glen Coulston learnt to hunt pigs at eight years old, with his Dad. And he still loves it:
“You can’t beat being in a natural environment – healthiest place to be.”
The Auckland Council contracts Glen to reduce pig numbers in the forests of the Waitakere Ranges. It’s dangerous work for Glen’s dogs, and not just because they can be killed by wild pigs – sadly, he has also lost dogs over bluffs when hunting. But most of his dogs retire to his farm once they are too old to work. Glen is the director of the conservation company Good Wood Aotearoa Ltd, which specialises in pest control.
In February 2018, Auckland Council’s Environment Committee decided to close the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park to prevent the spread of kauri dieback with the exception of a small number of tracks. In May 2018, 100 tracks were closed with a further four partially closed.
While the majority of people respect the track closures, there are a small number who are not using the cleaning stations or are entering closed tracks. Cameras and Compliance Officers are some of the methods being used to monitor and prevent this.
daughter of mountaineer Edmund Hillary – standing on her family’s land in Piha
Sarah’s family have a longstanding connection to this place; her grandfather purchased land in West Auckland in the 1920s and dreamed of creating walking tracks that followed the coastal routes of early Maori. Later, Sarah’s father was the inspiration for the iconic Hillary Trail, a 75km track through forest in the Waitākere Ranges. But most of the Hillary Trail is now closed to walkers.
Sarah supports steps to address kauri dieback, but the track closures have saddened her. She grew up here and has spent her adult life running on trails in the Waitākere Ranges.
She says a “good compromise” is key; she’d love more of the track to be reopened soon, and wants to ensure that future generations can access forest parks.
SHAUN COLLINS & DAUGHTER ANNIE ROSE
director of the annual Hillary Ultra Race, training on the rocky beach in Langholm
‘The Hillary Ultra’ is one of Auckland’s premium annual ultra-running races which Shaun has been organising through his events business ‘Lactic Turkey’. Two months before race day, Shaun was informed of the rāhui and chose to cancel that years Hillary event to respect the rāhui. The cancellation had a “huge impact” financially, not only for Shaun and his family, but also for the 20% of race participants who were coming from overseas as many had already paid for their travel and accommodation for the race. For Shaun, a local from Laingholm, the closure was the right thing to do at the time as a first step to protect the kauri - to take some action and highlight the issue to users. Reopening the Hillary Trail is a priority, but it’s hard to say how long that will take; where the track passes “high-status” kauri it will now need to be rerouted.
In previous years of ‘The Hillary Ultra’, all participants had to run over Trigene-soaked foot baths at 18 different points and watchful volunteers ensured 100% compliance. Shaun says samples taken from runners’ shoes showed that no phytopthora was spread by runners. He thinks events can be used to help raise awareness of kauri dieback.
Shaun is an ultra-marathon runner, and so far the only person to complete the gruelling “Trillary” – three laps of the Hillary Trail in a row. The Waitākere Ranges are a great training area for runners, with technical trails and steep hills. With his favourite tracks closed, Shaun’s now training at the beach to get technical, rocky ground; on hilly gravel roads at Whatipu; or up steep stairs at Landing Rd. And he’s spending more hours in the car getting out of Auckland, where trails aren’t affected.
His daughter, eleven-year-old Annie Rose has been affected too – the year that her Mum and Dad finally said she could undertake the The Hillary 16km event with her friends was the year before it closed. She thinks it’s “stink” that people her age who love games in the bush can’t get in there anymore.
CHRISTIAN STOCKLE, ULTRA RUNNER
Te Henga trail, near Bethells Beach
When Christian moved to New Zealand six years ago, discovering the Waitākere Ranges was fundamental to him putting down roots here: “you’ve got this incredibly diverse range of pristine trails in forest” on the doorstep of the biggest metropolitan center in the country.
He sees the forest as an asset for the city’s health: mental health and obesity have become epidemics in New Zealand and moving in green spaces “helps keep you sane” and fit. With the park closed, children are no longer able to learn to move and play in the outdoors.
At a personal level, Christian feels this loss keenly. Before the track closures, he ran here three times a week with friends. Now they’re forced to travel further to find open trails. He’s sad about kauri dieback, but also feels the closures are a “knee-jerk reaction” and won’t change the diseases' presence in the forest.
A Hillary trail marker on Te Henga, the only Hillary Trail section still open.
SONGWRITER TE AMOHAERE NGATA-AERENGAMATE WITH SISTERS TIARE & TRUTH
rehearsing Te Amohaere's waiata about Kauri Dieback
Te Amohaere grew up performing kapa haka alongside her whanau, where they found great joy in performing, producing and composing waiata, which communicate a purpose, whether it be current events or history of Maori culture.
The significance of kauri in the lives of Te Amohaere and her sisters comes from understanding the use of kauri in Maori heritage, being a practical choice for Waka, to the idea of the kauri forests that surround us descending from Tane Mahuta, as well as a deeper understanding about what kauri mean for New Zealanders. Te Amohaere is part of the Bio-security team at Auckland Council (Kauri Dieback Advisor for the Community) and is currently working on her Masters in Traditional Maori Marine Reserves.
Te Amohaere has composed a song specifically for kauri dieback in the Waitakere Ranges called Te tangi o te Kauri (the cry/call of the kauri). She is hopeful the song will be used as an education piece for the younger generation; it’s a catchy, fun tune and simple enough to understand, “Scrub, spray and stay (on the track)”. The song likens kauri trees to people, kings of the forest who live above us and were here before us. It emphasises the responsibilities we have as kaitiaki of the land, to protect kauri and the wider ecosystem.
ARTIST CHARLOTTE GRAHAM WITH HER AUNTIE TERESA PUHIHUIA HARRIS
Artist Charlotte Graham, of Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Whanaunga, Ngati Tamaoho Iwi. In her studio with her auntie Teresa Puhihuia Harris
Charlotte is Pare Waikato, Pare Hauraki and has often referenced kauri dieback in her artwork in the last six years. One of these works featured kawakawa leaves gathered from 42 Paturoa Road, Titirangi, where “Awhiawhi” (a kauri, due to be cut down with resource consent from the Council) was ringbarked in 2015, but ultimately saved by community protest.
The death of a rakau rangatira motivated Charlotte to produce artworks that challenge those in power to stop the death of kauri:
“when they die, so many things about who we are – as Maori, as people – go with them.”
A few years later, the rāhui was put in place on the Waitākere Ranges by one of Charlotte’s uncles. The prohibition on entering the forest finds expression in another of her works, visible behind her on the wall and bearing a central yellow cross.
Charlotte’s other kauri-inspired works range from a waka made from protest pickets, to a kohanga (nest) of kauri kakano (seeds), hexagonally shaped to evoke a paimarie (protective karakia, or prayer). More recently, she installed raindrops at Britomart – 300 metres long and spanning nine blocks. The drops represent a blessing of water, and invite passers-by to connect to their kaupapa (story) and heal.
Pamela Gill, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngati Porou, at work in Okaurirahi (an area once rich in kauri in Titirangi)
Pamela is the Principal Restoration, Community & Iwi Relationships Manager at EcoMatters, an environmental charitable trust based in West Auckland. She works with community to care for the natural environment in the Waitākere Ranges, including streams and forests.
Pamela works and lives in the Waitākere Ranges. She would like to see more focus on education to encourage people to do the ‘right thing’ to protect kauri, particularly for residents who live in the Ranges. Often people are not aware of what they can do to protect these giants of the forest. For Pamela “it’s about working with people and helping them to understand how we can care for our environment” this could be as simple as educating about cleaning shoes. For those living in the Ranges: having a specific set of gardening footwear that is worn only on their property and where possible, keeping clear of kauri roots. “It’s about empowering them to know how they can make a difference”.
“It’s about empowering them to know how they can make a difference”.
Pamela wading through a stream, removing weeds.
TWINS HARLEY AND ZANE KO TE ROROA TE IWI
standing in front of the famous twin kauri trees (known as Darby and Joan) in the Waipoua forest
They grew up in a settlement in Waipoua, among the huge trees, with candles for light and generators the only source of power. They both feel “privileged” to have lived that life – it makes them now appreciate what they have – and they still love going back to visit their parents.
Harley and Zane both work for Te Roroa’s environment team, doing pest control and native replanting. Zane poisons pests – rats, stoats, possums and cats – and has been building boardwalks over kauri roots to protect them from contracting dieback. Harley’s clearing weeds from old forestry sites and replanting them with natives – sowing tea tree (manuka) seeds harvested from the coast, and moving young flax (harakeke) to the new site.
RHYS JONES WITH HIS TRAINER BRIAN SHIELDS
Conservation dog Rhys is trialling some protective footwear
Rhys Jones (the Welsh springer spaniel pictured) has an incredible sense of smell. He is one of Auckland Council’s biosecurity dogs, managed by Brian Shields (pictured). Rhys was the first dog in the world trained to detect Argentine ants; he can locate the scent of just one ant. Together with DOC, the Council is now exploring whether Rhys can be trained to detect the pathogen that causes kauri dieback – for example, on tracks or dirty boots. So far, Rhys has a success rate close to 100%. When he’s working, Rhys wears rubber boots that can be washed, as Trigene disinfectant can’t be used on dogs’ paws.
SISTERS SHAKAIA & STAZIA HAYWARD
walking near their house in Huia; the Waitākere Ranges are their back yard.
On a hot day, Shakaia likes walking the Karamatua track to the waterfalls – when it’s open. But she reckons closing the tracks will help the “endangered” trees. At just 10, Shakaia can tell you exactly how kauri dieback is spread:
“if you stand on the roots, the stuff on your shoes goes onto the root and up into the tree”.
Her little sister Stazia, 5, feels good in the forest too: trees are “super cool” and she likes playing in the mud – once she even saw a bunny. Like her sister, she knows all about kauri: she explains they grow with water, sun and food.
MUSICIAN KELLY KAHUKIWA
Kelly Kahukiwa, of Whakaue, Pataheuheu and Te Aitanga a Makaki iwi, holding a pūrerehua in the shade of kauri trees. A H Reed Memorial Park, Whangarei
Kelly and Daniel Nathan lead a project called Te Reo Ngaro o te Rākau (the hidden voices of trees), which melds Mātauranga Māori (Māori scientific observation) with arts, music, education and acoustic technology. Both believe there’s a hidden language that exists inside the trees, and are recording these ultrasonic frequencies from te wāhi ngaro (the undiscovered world), to bring them out of the ultrasonic spectrum and into human hearing range.
Rangatahi (young people) will help record these sounds and rhythms to make music from them. Kelly hopes rangatahi will be encouraged to re-connect with the forest:
“we’re searching, we’re discovering, and we want to do this with our young people beside us, doing this with us.”
Daniel Nathan and Kelly Kahukiwa recording a healthy Kauri tree