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The scale model of a mature kauri tree will help Waikato Regional Council spread the message about protecting kauri. Photo: SUPPLIED

Wētā Workshop develops Coromandel kauri model

Award-winning special effects and prop company Wētā Workshop Ltd has created a scale model of a mature kauri tree for Waikato Regional Council to help spread the message about protecting kauri.

The model, which is a 1:82 representation of kauri that were present in the Coromandel Peninsula around 1850, is based on a tree known as Father of the Kauri which stood at Mill Creek, Mercury Bay. Father of the Kauri had a known trunk diameter of about 7.5 metres, which is more than 2 metres bigger than the 5.2-metre trunk diameter of Tane Mahuta, God of the Forest, in Waipoua Forest, Northland.

Kauri Protection Lead Kim Parker says the model, along with a virtual reality experience which is still being developed, is part of a mobile educational programme by the council to educate people about the importance of protecting kauri.

“We’ll be rolling it out to community trapping groups, landowners, mana whenua and supporting Thames-Coromandel District Council’s kauri ambassador programme to let them know specific ways they can help protect kauri as individuals, and to inspire a bright future for kauri in the Waikato,” says Parker.

The kauri model will be on display at Waikato Regional Council’s stand at Fieldays (30 November 2022 to 3 December 2022). After that it will be installed on a custom-made trailer so it can easily be taken to kura, schools and community events. 

“Our model shows the overall proportions of a mature, healthy kauri, including its massive, spreading root system which is a very important part of the kauri protection message,” says Parker.

Kauri need protection from a dieback disease caused by a microscopic soil-borne organism called Phytophthora agathidicida, or PA, that affects kauri through its roots, damaging the tissues that carry nutrients and water and effectively starving the tree.

“The best way to protect kauri is by stopping the movement of dirt around kauri roots. Therefore, we wanted to show the root system to illustrate the size of the area that is at risk. Humans are one of the main ways of moving the disease as we can easily move the pathogen from site to site, by spreading dirt on our footwear, tyre treads and equipment.”  

Waikato Regional Council has been helping community groups introduce kauri protective behaviours, such has installing hygiene stations; supporting farmers to fence off kauri areas to prevent stock incursion; and supporting Thames-Coromandel District Council to deliver a track ambassador programme in the Coromandel Peninsula over summer.

Stopping the movement of dirt around kauri is the best way to protect kauri.

  • Construct fences to keep out stock – the council has specific funding to help with fencing costs.
  • Stop the movement of dirt around kauri, including by cleaning footwear and ensuring all your gear is dirt-free before and after entering a forest.
  • Stay on the track when enjoying a walk in kauri forests.