As a young teenager, I remember our parents taking us to the Waipoua forest to see Tāne Mahuta. This giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland Region in New Zealand is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. It is the largest living kauri tree known to stand today. Perhaps when Alexander the Great was expanding his empire, Tāne Mahuta was a sapling on the forest floor. For Māori, the kauri is a taonga or treasure of immense significance and is named for the Māori god of forests and birds. When I enter a kauri forest, I am stuck with its magnificence. Kauri once dominated northern Aotearoa New Zealand, from Northland to the Waikato, until our European forebears arrived.
The remnant kauri has a new enemy, a microbial organism, Phytophthora agathidicida, that damages the tree's root system's ability to take water and nutrients from the soil and transport them throughout the plant. Initial signs of kauri dieback can be yellowing the leaves, lesions can occur on the trunk, eventually branches starve and the whole tree succumbs.
Kauri dieback is an environmental challenge, and the kauri is worthy of our best efforts to protect it from further spread, for its own sake and for future generations. At DNAiTECH we are honoured to be part of this shared effort and grateful that Auckland Council has funded us for phase 1, the development of a rapid LAMP based point-of-care assay for Phytophthora agathidicida. We embrace this project, it resonates strongly with our values, mauri ora te whenua, mauri ora te tāngata.