Protecting our kauri forests

Department of Conservation —  21/03/2016

To acknowledge the UN International Day of Forests we profile the team behind DOC’s Kauri Dieback Recreation Project who are working hard to protect our magnificent kauri forests.

Meet the team

Team: Kauri Dieback Recreation Project. We are a team of people working on this project – some full time, some doing a few days a week.

Tane Mahuta kauri tree. Photo: itravelNZ® | CC BY 2.0.

Tane Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest

What’s one interesting fact about each team member?

Richard Balm became the acting project manager in February when Shana Harding left to have her baby (she had baby boy Farrin in March and everyone is doing great).

Richard Balm.

Richard Balm

Alistair Smith is the man on the ground for the project – he’s the senior works officer and in charge of the on-the-ground track work. Alistair has nine years of experience managing track upgrades for DOC at a variety of locations including Masterton, Great Barrier Island, Warkworth and now regionally based in Whangarei. His claim to fame is winning a couple of surfing events in Wairarapa and travelling to Japan as an expert in construction of fencing.

Tony Beauchamp is one of DOC’s Threats Advisors and contributes to the project and to the wider Kauri Dieback Programme. Tony is an amazing source of knowledge and studies ornithology in his spare time.

Lynnie Gibson is seconded to the project and is in charge of iwi and community engagement. Lynnie loves kauri trees almost as much as she loves the ocean and tries to swim at the beach across the road from her house every day, even in winter (that is a ‘Northland’ winter).

Abi Monteith is seconded to the project and works on communications. Abi works part time on the project and when not at work drives a taxi that specialises in after school transportation for her two children and the various activities they do.

Abi Monteith and kids camping.

Abi Monteith and kids camping

Helen Ough Dealy works 1.5 days a week on long-term Kauri Dieback behaviour change. She recently reconnected with her Mexican heritage with a 5-week long trip to Mexico over summer.

What are your team’s favourite things?

Clean, mud-free shoes, gear and vehicles and short meetings.

What are your team’s pet peeves?

The misconceptions about kauri dieback. There’s a lot of false information about, including that sterilising agent rots boots. The scientists seem to be saying that it isn’t the steriliser but the scrubbing which is wearing the boots down!

Hard at work

What’s your team’s role at DOC?

We run the Kauri Dieback Recreation Project – this is DOC’s on-the-ground response to the disease killing kauri trees from Hamilton northwards. The project is one of DOC’s main priorities and involves work on 200 tracks over three years, starting next month.

One of the kauri dieback cleaning stations.

One of the kauri dieback cleaning stations

How does this help DOC achieve our goals?

By protecting our iconic kauri trees – they are dying from kauri dieback and there is no cure. We’ve got to act now to save them.

How is your team structured?

Richard leads the project and under him is Abi, Lynnie and Helen who look after communication, community/iwi liaison and behaviour change. Alistair manages the on-the-ground work and Tony provides the science advice. We all feed into the joint agency response run by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

What is the hardest part about your team’s work?

Getting people to listen to us – the disease is killing kauri trees and there is no cure. We’ve got to stop the spread of soil and DOC staff play a key role in this, by educating the public and displaying best practice.

A group of kauri trees.

Kauri are one of the most ancient trees in the world

What is the best part of your job?

Seeing the results – the new cleaning stations we are testing are getting great compliance rates (yay), the on-the-ground track upgrades start next month and we had a great response from DOC staff.

What is special about the kauri tree?

The kauri is New Zealand’s largest and most famous native tree and are among the most ancient trees in the world. The largest kauri in existence is Tane Mahuta (Maori for ‘Lord of the Forest’). Tane Mahuta is 4.4 metres in diameter and 17.7 metres to the first branch.

The oldest tree is estimated to be 2,000 years old. This is Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest), also in Waipoua Forest.

Practice your pronunciation

The word ‘Kauri’ is often mispronounced as ‘cow-ree’ – proper pronunciation is ‘Kauri’ as ‘Ko-ree’ (as in Go).


kauri-logoWant to know more?

The DOC website is the first place you should visit to learn more about the Kauri Dieback Recreation Project.

For more information on the joint agency response to kauri dieback run by the Ministry for Primary Industries visit the Keep Kauri Standing website.