Kauri tree concerns dismissed

Fears a killer disease has afflicted one of New Plymouth's most treasured kauri trees have been snuffed out.

The kauri was a gift to Russell Matthews to mark his birthday on July 2, 1932, and was the first tree planted at the historic Tupare garden and homestead on Mangorei Rd.

Alarm was raised earlier this week when a member of the public contacted the Taranaki Daily News that a large scab of sap had formed near the base of the tree.

Bleeding at the base of a trunk is one symptom a tree has phytophthora taxon agathis disease (PTA), a microscopic fungus-like pathogen also known as kauri dieback or kauri rot.

The untreatable and tree killer has been mostly found in the far north and in the Waitakere ranges, though there have been at least two previous scares it has arrived in Taranaki.

Yesterday Taranaki Regional Council regional gardens manager Greg Ryan dismissed the latest fears dieback was in the area.

"The kauri in question is the large kauri by house at Tupare. That has been bleeding for 20 years and the bleeding is not yellow like it would with dieback," he said.

"If it was here we'd be doing something about it quickly and we would be wanting to tell people what is going on so it didn't spread."

Ryan said he believed there were seven kauri at Tupare.

He said kauri can be affected by a disease called armillaria, or honey fungus, which has similar symptoms to PTA. Over the last decade PTA has killed thousands of kauri in New Zealand. It prevents nutrients from being absorbed and can kill saplings in a matter of weeks. Kauri are not native to Taranaki and most are planted either singly or in small groups.

The largest stand of kauri found in Taranaki is at New Plymouth's Brooklands Park, where about 200 were planted in 1935.

Taranaki Daily News