Dogs trained to sniff out kauri dieback show off skills

Source: 1News

After delays caused by Covid-19, the new national pest management plan was officially launched today.

The plan, originally announced in August, established Tiakina Kauri as the management agency for fighting kauri dieback, with $32 million of government funding.

Kauri protection representatives met in the Waitākere Ranges today in West Auckland, with many stressing the importance of a coordinated effort with mana whenua as lead in tackling Phytophthora agathidicida.

"This is a significant challenge for us all, but particularly Northland, the Waitākeres and the Coromandel," Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said.

"There's commitment from local councils to this, and now a commitment from central government to a national pest management plan.

"It puts in the legal framework for us to take action that is necessary."

What that action is, is in part still being figured out.

A significant portion of the $32 million will go towards research and development.

Associate Environment Minister James Shaw said they will take lessons from the past, but use technology from the future to fight the pathogen.

"We haven't got a precise allocation yet, but there's work that needs to go into the science because we don't yet have purely scientific fix for this challenger," he said.

"But there are many things we can do in the mean time such as making sure people clean their boots going in and out of forests and having rāhui in place."

One of the tools currently in development, is the use of sniffer dogs to discover the presence of the dieback disease.

Those at the event were treated to a demonstration by Jagdterrier Mawhai and English Springer spaniel Pip, who have been in training for over three years.

In the demonstration, a trainer walked far away from the dogs without them looking to hide a similar pathogen to what causes kauri dieback. When released they sniffed throughout the grass; quickly locating the pathogen and wriggling about excitedly when they had.

Pip and Mawhai are expected to be operational by the end of the year.

The dogs are expected to be an important tool in the fight against kauri dieback, but they will not be released in the forest to hunt down the disease.

Instead, the dogs will be able to screen materials to figure out if they carry the disease - helpful for when moving items and travelling in and out of kauri forests.

There's also a possibility the dogs will be used on pest-free islands.