What inspired you to start the Kauri 2000 Trust?
Kauri 2000 evolved out of a project to mark the start of the new millennium, initiated by our founder Cliff Heraud. Our original target was to plant 2000 kauri to celebrate the year 2000.
We all love trees, and especially kauri because they are such an iconic, magnificent tree with such a special place in our history, but have been so heavily logged in the past that we wanted to recreate the kauri forests of the Coromandel in a way that everyone will be able to enjoy in centuries to come.
Why did you want to save the kauri?
Strictly speaking, the kauri is not an endangered species as such, but because it was plundered so intensively on the Coromandel Peninsula and is so slow to regenerate there are very few stands of the really large iconic trees left here. On the Peninsula there are very few places where you can easily see really large kauri, and even then there are often only handfuls of them. We wanted to recreate large stands of kauri so people will get some idea of what was destroyed.
How long has the Trust been going?
The Kauri 2000 Trust was formally launched on August 8th 1999.
How many people are involved in Kauri 2000?
There are eight trustees, a forestry advisor and a part-time coordinator who takes care of the day-to-day running of the Trust. We use paid contractors to carry out site preparation before planting as well as weed control and releasing until the trees are established, because this is hard physical and sometimes hazardous work. Our planting is done many dozens of volunteers who plant trees every winter and we also have hundreds more supporters who support us with their donations.
What's the best thing about the Trust?
We like the idea that we are helping to create something for future generations, even though we might not see the results ourselves. A mature kauri forest is a very inspiring place, and almost feels like a giant cathedral because the trees are so majestic. We like the idea that one day the trees we have planted will be a source of inspiration for people we will never meet, but who will share our feelings for the environment and these wonderful trees. We also enjoy getting together with our volunteers at planting time every winter – it is a really enjoyable time working together in the bush, knowing we are creating something that will grow way beyond our lifetimes. Our site at the Matarangi Reserve (in between Kuaotunu and Rings Beach) where we are currently planting has the potential to be the largest ‘planted’ kauri forest in the world and that is exciting too!
Why is the kauri famous?
The kauri is famous because of its sheer size – it is the second largest tree species in the world, second only to the giant redwood, and amongst the world’s oldest living trees. With tall clean trunks it was originally famous for the quality of its timber. Today kauri forests are widely appreciated by New Zealanders and international tourists for their beauty. The large kauri trees also had (and have) cultural significance for the Maori people.
Why do you plant kauri instead of other trees?
Kauri is what is known as a climax species… it is slow growing and one of the final species to grow in a forest, but eventually will come to dominate every other tree in that forest. However this process takes centuries. Because of intensive logging and fire, there are many locations where the bush is regenerating but where kauri are highly unlikely to regenerate naturally. Rather than plant where kauri are already growing, Kauri 2000 plants on these sites, giving Nature a helping hand and helping to speed up the process. Because there are usually many other trees already starting to regenerate in these locations, such as kanuka, manuka, ake ake and rewa rewa, to name a few, we do not normally need to plant other species.
How many kauri trees do you plant each year?
Every winter in the months of June and July we plant on average around 2,500 trees, sometimes more. In the 10 years since 1999 we have planted about 33,000 kauri on 33 sites around the Coromandel.
Where do you plant most of your kauri trees?
We mostly plant on publicly-owned land in the Coromandel Forest Park or on conservation land administered by the Department of Conservation. Occasionally we plant on private land that is protected by a QEII Trust covenant. Our sites range from very small sites such as a park or reserve with about five trees, through to major sites such as Chelmsford/Puketui and Hauraki Hill, where we have around 6000 and 4000 trees respectively. Our biggest site is the Matarangi Reserve, where we had planted nearly 8000 kauri by the end of the 2010 planting season.
How do you choose where to plant and why?
The Kauri 2000 Trust works with the Department of Conservation, Land Transport NZ, the Thames-Coromandel District Council and reserve management groups to establish planting sites on publicly-owned or covenanted land. Obviously we need to choose sites that have the right soil and growing conditions for young kauri, but we also need sites that are reasonably easy to access for carrying the trees in, for planting, and for maintenance. We use publically-owned land as much as possible so the trees will be protected and right of access over decades – in fact centuries! ‑ can be guaranteed.
Do you look after the trees you have planted?
Yes, every site has its own work plan and the trees are regularly monitored to check their health and growth. We inspect most sites at least once every 1-2 years depending on how vigorous the weed growth is. We ‘release’ (keep free of competing vegetation) our kauri for at least five years, or until they can grow on their own without the risk of being smothered by invasive weeds such as blackberry, pampas, honeysuckle, gorse, or kikuyu grass.
How many kauri survive?
We average about a 90% survival rate, often better, although this varies from site to site and year to year. For example one site suffered particularly badly after drought in the summer of 2009-2010.
Who were the first loggers?
Maori used kauri to carve and make war canoes, and the first European loggers were probably the sailors of the HMS Dromedary who extracted ‘rickers’ for boat spars, taking out a load of 98 spar logs in November 1820.
The New Story of the Kauri by A.H. Reed has an excellent history of kauri logging including about 300 photographs. Two other worthwhile books found in libraries include Quest for the Kauri by E.V. Sale and The World of the Kauri by John Halkett & E.V. Sale. David Bergin and Greg Steward of Scion Research have also produced an excellent booklet Kauri: Ecology, establishment, growth and management. (Kauri 2000 has limited copies of these available for purchase.)
How long do you think it will take to restore New Zealand's kauri forests to their former glory?
This is a challenging question! Because of land use change indigenous forests will never cover the Peninsula as they once did, although we are fortunate so much has been retained as part of the conservation estate.
In terms of how fast kauri grow… in dense forest naturally growing kauri can stay at 1-2 metres tall for nearly 40 to 50 years! However because we are releasing our trees and cutting light wells our kauri will grow faster than this… just take a look at the pictures of the 10-year old kauri compared with the seedling planted in 1999 on the front page of our March 2010 newsletter. In another 50 years our first plantings could be 20-25 m tall. They could stay at this “ricker” stage for 150-200 years or more, then finally start to mature into their classic, iconic large smooth trunks and spreading crowns. So we might possibly start to see our planted forests looking as magnificent as their forbears in, say, 250 or 350 years?
How much does it cost each year to plant kauri?
This is constantly changing as prices increase! The total cost of a tree, fertiliser and Saturaid, as well as land preparation, costs around $20-$25 per tree. Then there are ongoing costs such as releasing from competing plants until it is established, which can easily add around another $20 per tree.
How is Kauri 2000 funded?
We get funding in a mixture of ways. Some comes from donations from members of the public, including visitors from overseas and other parts of New Zealand. Some comes from people who have signed up to become a Friend of Kauri 2000.
Other funding is in the form of grants from organisations such as the Lotto Environment & Heritage Fund, Trust Waikato, Pub Charities, Greenfleet, Environment Waikato and TCDC, and some comes from sponsors such as the Bank of New Zealand, Richardsons Real Estate and others. Many of our sponsors are listed on the web site.
How tall does a kauri grow in 10 years?
The growth rate of kauri under natural conditions varies, particularly at the seedling and sapling stages.
The growth in height of seedlings in full light is around 10-25 cm a year ‑ some of our kauri planted on open sites under favourable conditions were 6 metres tall after 10 years. (Compare pictures of the 10-year old kauri with the seedling in 1999 on the front page of our March 2010 newsletter on the web site.) Under a dense forest canopy kauri can ‘sit’ or grow only very slowly for 50 years or more.
Can a kauri be planted in an open space or must it be under the shade of other trees?
Kauri can be planted in open space and some of our sites are on former pasture. However, they do not like wind and will often need staking on these open sites, and they can suffer from competition with aggressive grasses such as kikuyu, or blackberry. They are also more vulnerable to drought on open sites. Saplings grow most rapidly in full overhead light but small seedlings require shelter. The most favourable sites for planting are those where secondary forest or scrub has developed after burning or where pastoral farmland has been invaded by small-leaved vegetation such as manuka or kanuka.
What are some of the factors affecting the establishment of kauri?
Kauri seedlings can often have poorly developed root systems that can be susceptible to drought, particularly within the first year or two after planting so careful site selection and preparation is likely to improve establishment. Heavy compacted soils can hinder root growth which is usually more rapid in soils of light texture (Ecroyd 1982). In compacted clays digging the planting hole 30 cm in diameter and 30 cm deep for each plant has a beneficial effect (Lloyd 1977).
Early growth is favoured by a combination of moist fertile soil and absence of competing plants. Nursery raised kauri seedlings have poorer survival rates and slow growth on infertile drought-prone ridges even where there are few competing plants of other species.
Most kauri plantings fail due to poor maintenance after planting. Keeping recently planted kauri seedlings free of competing weed growth (releasing) is nearly always essential and may need to be carried out for five years after planting – sometimes longer. (Regrowth of shrubby species can be cut back with a slasher or scrub bar. Vigorous grass sites can be carefully sprayed with herbicide.)
If they still cut down kauri would you be for or against it?
If you put yourself in the place of the early explorers, imagine how delighted they were to find such a magnificent tree as the kauri with its straight-grained, light weight, rot resistant wood. It was ideal for ships’ spars when ships were the primary method of transporting people and freight around the world, and built many of the houses in Auckland and San Francisco. However, we would be against logging naturally occurring kauri if they wanted to start again now because there are so few left. A few people have planted kauri as production forests on private land, so they can be harvested and milled for timber, however they are unlikely to see this happen in their lifetimes.
What are the dangers for kauri today?
The main danger to kauri now is not logging but a soil borne disease (Phytophthora taxon Agathis, or PTA) which is killing kauri trees in the upper North Island and on Great Barrier Island. As yet there is no evidence that PTA is on the Coromandel Peninsula. The government has pledged $4.7 million to help find a way to control the spread of this disease. The Kauri 2000 Trust asks everyone who goes into the bush to do their bit to keep PTA off the Peninsula, especially if you have been tramping or hunting in forests in Auckland or beyond. Please clean your footwear thoroughly with a 5% bleach/water solution after each tramp, so we can keep the Coromandel clean of this disease. For more information on PTA visit www.kauridieback.co.nz.
Fire is another danger to kauri and our forests in general. Please make sure you observe the fire bans every summer.
Are you for or against mining on the Coromandel Peninsula?
The Trust opposed the removal of land from Schedule 4 because this land had been identified as having special conservation values and represents both a national and community asset, as well as a legacy for the future. Over 95% of our current and future planting sites are on Schedule 4 land. The Trust is particularly concerned to protect the trees that have been donated by individuals, families and various organisations for us to plant as living mementoes and memorials to many thousands of people here and overseas. For example, the area identified as Hauraki Hill, which was specifically identified for its gold mining potential, is one of our major planting sites, with more than 4,100 kauri planted between 2001-2008. The financial and personal investment by Kauri 2000 supporters in the restoration of our kauri forests is too great to destroy for the sake of short-term financial gain.