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.
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.
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, 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.
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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.