Entry Date: 11.12.2018, at 10:48:50 hrs (local)

Whangarei - Whangarei

Kauri trees in Waitakere Ranges


PRID: 11687
LegID: 315
LegNo: 64
Latitude: S035°43.41'
Longitude: E174°19.57'
Day#: 821
Log (Leg): 15 nm
Log (Total): 47138 nm
We´re on our way north again, towards Whangarei. West of Auckland is an extensive nature reserve called "Waitakere Ranges". This stunning region covers more than 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coasts.

Here is also the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, an area with untouched bush, thriving indigenous wildlife and wild black sand beaches. A wild, rugged and beautiful coastline with black sandy beaches, which also has a very good reputation among surfers, stretches along the western coastline.

We camp in the parking lot of the lovingly designed Arataki Visitor Center. We are allowed to stay for a very little fee. From here we also have an incredible panoramic view over the beautiful mountain landscape to the vast Manukau bay in the south.

On a nature trail we find names and descriptions of the native plants and we try to memorize the at least some of them. The two main representatives are certainly the Silver Fern and the Kauri tree, as the tree in front of the Visitor Center on the picture.

The Silver Fern is a New Zealand icon and often seen on the Silver Fern flag, the unofficial flag of New Zealand. The Silver Fern is New Zealand´s national plant, next to the term Kiwi (the Kiwi bird, the Kiwi fruit and the New Zealanders themselves) one of the most important national symbols of the Pacific State and is comparable to the maple leaf in the Canadian society.

Kauri trees, the green giant of New Zealand, can live up to 4000 years and grow 30 to 50 meters high. The Kauri tree in general, but especially some selected specimens in particular, play an important role in the mythology of the Māori and are considered the forefathers of all living things. Very large and old Kauri trees have a great spiritual significance for the identity of the Māori.

Today, the New Zealand Kauri tree is under protection and may only be felled for ritual purposes by the Māori. But that was not always so. Back in 1769, when Captain James Cook discovered the North Island, he had parts of his ship repaired with the durable and straight grown wood of the Kauri trees. With the beginning of the colonization of New Zealand by European settlers, the stock of Kauri forests was greatly decimated. The trees were well suited for shipbuilding. In addition, the wood was used for the construction of houses, for furniture and wall paneling, fences, as timber, for barrels, railway sleepers, supports in mining, carving and turning and other purposes. Additionally, the gum diggers were after the resin of the Kauri trees. Before the invention of synthetic alternatives, the amber-like chunks were mainly used for paints, varnishes and linoleum and were accordingly precious. For this, the trunks of living trees were carved, which then bleeded out and eventually died.

Today, New Zealand´s Kauri stock is threatened by a very different threat. A fungus-like pathogen introduced from outside, probably from Korea, endangers the trees. Phytophthora taxon agathis, or PTA for short, causes kauri root rot at the roots. This disease is called "Kauri dieback".

A diagnosis on an affected tree usually succeeds only when it is already too late. When the tree is infected, it will almost always eventually die. It is also difficult to estimate how many trees are already infected. In almost all remaining Kauri reserves, PTA is detected on individual trees. It was found that PTA spreads mainly along trails. Many researchers see this as the main reason for the progressive spread. More than two-thirds of all infected trees are along hiking trails. The reason is the simple and fast transport of the pathogen via soil material in the profiles of shoes and tires.

As a consequence, the management of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park has closed the vast majority of hiking trails in the park. We hope that these measures can save the stock of those marvelous trees.