Labour pledges funding to fight kauri dieback

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 12:36 13/04/2014
kauri dieback
Rose Stirling/Fairfax NZ
DYING: An example of kauri dieback, the tree bleeding resin.

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Labour has pledged $20m to help save New Zealand's kauri forests from kauri dieback disease though the Government has dismissed the move as late and lazy.

"We are facing an ecological disaster with over 11 per cent of the Kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges infected and thousands of trees killed by the disease,'' Labour leader David Cunliffe said in a statement today.

The disease was now spread around the Whangapoua forest in the Coromandel and was prevalent in the forests of Northland, and Great Barrier Island, he said.

"Unless we act to stop its spread, this iconic New Zealand species could be wiped out.''

Cunliffe said the Government had not done enough to address the issue, refusing to commit funding to continue the scientific research and disease control work by iwi, local councils and the Conservation Department while the Ministry of Primary Industries was considering scaling back the programme.

Measures such as the control of feral pigs had worked in some areas but were not being rolled out and the increased funding would help with this, he said.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said he had already indicated an increase in funding for the fight against the disease in the next budget.

''Labour's pledge now is late and lazy," he said.

The Government had already provided significant finding since 2009 and the amount would be increased in May's Budget.

Labour's claim that the spread to the Coromandel was due to a lack of Government funding or effort was incorrect.

National had been working closely with the regional councils, the science community and iwi on a plan to combat it, he said.

"Kauri dieback is a serious threat to the treasured remnants of these magnificent forests. I welcome Labour's belated interest and look forward to their positive support for the Government's funding package when it is announced in next month's Budget."

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