Ngā Rākau Taketake

Work is well underway on developing a programme that aims to accelerate the critical research needed to combat the spread of kauri dieback and myrtle rust. Find the latest news here.

The BioHeritage Challenge is leading development of the programme, known as Ngā Rākau Taketake ­– Saving our Iconic Trees. Its development follows the announcement of new investment, with the focus being to accelerate work already being done by Government agencies, councils, research providers, Māori and interest groups.

Kauri dieback is threatening Aotearoa New Zealand’s taonga (treasured) kauri with extinction,  and myrtle rust is threatening many iconic native species as well as plants important to primary industries. More knowledge is urgently needed to underpin future approaches and tools to fight the two pathogens.

The name Ngā Rākau Taketake reflects the historical connections Māori and other New Zealanders have with our kauri and myrtaceae trees. Taketake refers to the permanence of that relationship. This programme aims to protect and restore that relationship and connection.

Leading development and implementation of Ngā Rākau Taketake are BioHeritage Challenge Strategic Leadership Group members Dr Nick Waipara, of Plant & Food Research, and Dr Maureen O’Callaghan, of AgResearch. Nick is heavily involved with New Zealand’s kauri dieback response, while Maureen has extensive experience in leading large, complex research programmes.

Kauri dieback is a disease that has killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of the taonga (treasured) trees in the North Island, and threatens the unique and ecologically important kauri ecosystem. New Zealanders have strong emotional and cultural attachments to kauri and the loss is having a major impact on our communities.

This project contributes towards BioHeritage’s goal of helping to create a world-class biosecurity system for New Zealand.

Tranche 2 Research Programmes

Te Mauri o te Rākau: Mātauranga Māori solutions to kauri dieback.

Co-led by Dr James Ataria (Cawthron Institute) and Alby Marsh (Plant & Food Research) in collaboration with Te Tira Whakamātaki.

Just as Western science evaluates for scientific excellence, this team aims to ensure the mātauranga Māori projects they facilitate are of the highest quality and allow for real investment in indigenous science, and so have developed standards/measures to ensure this. All projects will also be subject to international peer review.

Mātauranga Māori Surveillance Framework for plant pathogens.

Co-led by Dr Dean Anderson at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Waitangi Wood from Ngatirua, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu.

The aim of the MMSF is to inform future mātauranga Māori and science research investment priorities for surveillance within biosecurity. By employing a trans-disciplinary approach the team want to find solutions that improve surveillance across New Zealand.

They are working on ensuring the MMSF aligns with various systems, including the surveillance system within our biosecurity network, the activities from central and local government agencies, and stakeholders who are part of biosecurity.

The MMSF team are aware of the many opportunities for aligning their work with existing kauri dieback and myrtle rust mahi (work). They are using existing and emergent pathogen surveillance data and information, paired with hapū/Iwi kaitiaki who are intimate with their taonga.

They will use the framework across kaitiaki-centric ‘Biodiversity Management Areas’, to test tools and techniques that inform the development of future-fit and responsive surveillance, that will protect our natural biodiversity.

Control, protect and cure: tools for detection and management.

Led by Dr Tara Strand at Scion.

Development of tools for detection and management of myrtle rust and kauri dieback, for kaitiaki and land managers.


  • Rapid diagnostic and field-based detection methods
  • Alternative disinfectants
  • Mātauranga Māori-based bioactives

Myrtle rust risk assessment 

Led by Dr Beccy Ganley at Plant & Food Research.

  1. Monitoring the impact of myrtle rust on native Myrtaceae, especially highly vulnerable Lophomyrtus spp.
    • Monitoring disease incidence, severity, tree and seedling mortality.
  2. Measuring leaf flush (new growth) in native Myrtaceae.
    • This will collect information about the time period that plant species are susceptible to myrtle rust and will inform predictive surveillance models.
  3. Field host susceptibility/resistance testing
    • Field trials that will use the same seed-lots that have been tested against the pandemic strain (present in NZ) and other overseas strains.
    • It will be the first time in the world that the same material will be tested under controlled experimental conditions and then in the field. This will provide information on strain virulence.
  4. Viability of germplasm
    • Investigate the reproductive rate of infected and uninfected trees in native forest.

Mobilising for action: social research to empower communities to protect rākau.

Led by Dr Marie McEntee at University of Auckland.

Landscape genomics of kauri 

Led by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

Tranche 1 Research Programmes

Issues & Impacts

Making things happen quickly is a key focus for the project team and since the announcement BioHeritage has been working closely with relevant parties to develop the programme. 

At the end of January 2019, the proposed programme was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for assessment. Feedback has been received for this and we’re working to incorporate it, to produce a final document that will provide strategic guidance for the Challenge’s investments as part of the programme.

Sign up to BioHeritage eNewsletters for progress updates and if you have a specific query, please email us.

Research Partners

This additional investment is an incredible opportunity to tackle two critical threats to Aotearoa New Zealand’s iconic native trees and we intend to work respectfully in partnership with organisations and individuals already working in this field. 

Via Strategic Science Advisory Groups (SSAGs) established by MPI, there has been a lot of careful thinking about research needs in the areas of myrtle rust and kauri dieback and the Challenge approach will build on this. 

Ultimately, Ngā Rākau Taketake will provide a roadmap to developing the new knowledge and tools needed to empower New Zealanders to protect and restore our ngahere (forest/bush) for future generations. Its goals will be achievable within this programme’s three-year timeframe.

The BioHeritage Challenge was chosen to oversee this vital programme because of its proven track record in fostering collaboration to take ideas to impact. 

For more information about myrtle rust, you can also check out the national myrtle rust website, or have a look at what the Beyond Myrtle Rust team has been getting up to.


Related News

View all News & Events

Te Kura o te Kauri gets the green light

Dr Monica Gerth is leading work on Te Kura o te Kauri – The School of the Kauri.

Read more

Kauri rescue – citizens combating kauri dieback

More than 200 landowners have signed up to a community-led programme that’s aiming to save the iconic kauri.

Read more

Critical research to be accelerated

Kauri dieback and myrtle rust research to be accelerated.

Read more
back to top

Dive straight into the feedback!
Login below and you can start commenting using your own user instantly