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KAURI DIEBACK

LONG FORM PHOTOJOURNALISM PROJECT. THIS PROJECT WON A CANON PRO GRANT AND WAS PUBLICLY EXHIBITED.

ROBIN-TAUA GORDON

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."
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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".
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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.
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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.

MORE STORIES WILL BE ADDED MONTHLY

 

LISTEN TO A PODCAST WITH CANON ABOUT THE PROJECT HERE

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mail@michellehyslop.com

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