Trees felled to curb Dutch elm disease

STOP THE SPREAD: In 2012 arborists removed trees infected with Dutch Elm Disease from a Whitford property.
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STOP THE SPREAD: In 2012 arborists removed trees infected with Dutch Elm Disease from a Whitford property.

A new outbreak of Dutch elm disease has hit more than 20 trees on Auckland's Ohinerau/Mt Hobson.

The trees on the eastern slope will be felled with work starting today, Auckland Council said.

Elm dease is a highly virulent fungal disease that reached New Zealand first in Napier in 1989 and then spread to Myers Park in Auckland.

WARNING SIGN: Exit holes are signs of the beetle that spreads Dutch elm disease.
Dubby Henry

WARNING SIGN: Exit holes are signs of the beetle that spreads Dutch elm disease.

There are an estimated 20,000 elm trees in Auckland.

"The discovery of the disease on one of Auckland's treasured maunga is heart-breaking, but there is no choice but to remove them," said Christine Fletcher, chair of the council's Parks, Sport and Recreation Committee and deputy chair of the Maunga Authority.  

 "Doing nothing is not an option as it puts other elms on the maunga and in neighbouring suburbs at risk of the disease."

The disease is carried by the elm bark beetle or by root grafting.

 An infected beetle was trapped on Hobson in early January and subsequent tests identified several trees showing signs of the disease. 

Auckland Council Arboriculture and Landscape Advisor, Simon Cook, said staff are working under the direction of the Maunga Authority to ensure the careful removal of the trees.

"Dutch elm disease can spread quickly and it is nearly always fatal for the affected trees so we take every precaution to ensure we remove the trees carefully and contain the threat of the disease spreading any further afield."

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Council is also monitoring trees in Gifford Road, Papatoetoe after three infected trees were removed last week. 

Although believed to be originally native to Asia, the disease has been accidentally introduced into America, New Zealand and Europe, where it has devastated native populations of elms which had not had the opportunity to evolve resistance to the disease. 

The name "Dutch elm disease" refers to its identification in 1921 and later in the Netherlands by Dutch phytopathologists.

 - Stuff

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