New Zealand’s largest pōhutukawa tree, known as Te Waha o Rerekohu, is currently in a race against time. This magnificent natural wonder is under the threat of a devastating disease. Myrtle rust, a formidable plant pathogen, has been discovered on the tree, casting a shadow of uncertainty over its future.
Te Waha o Rerekohu holds a special place in the hearts of the Ngāti Porou people, as it is believed to be the oldest and grandest of its kind in New Zealand.
The outbreak of myrtle rust on this cherished tree is a matter of great concern. This disease spreads through the air, putting not only Te Waha o Rerekohu at risk but also endangering other native myrtle family trees such as rātā and mānuka. The disease targets the tree’s new growth, and sadly, there is no known cure.
Efforts to combat the disease are underway, led by the dedicated members of the Te Whakapae Ururoa surveillance group. These vigilant guardians tirelessly monitor forests from East Cape to Cape Runaway, collecting vital data on myrtle rust’s spread and its impact on New Zealand’s unique flora. The government’s funding has supported their mission, enabling them to employ skilled staff and bolster their surveillance efforts.
As New Zealand faces this daunting challenge, there is a collective sense of urgency to protect not just a single tree but also the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage it represents. The fate of Te Waha o Rerekohu hangs in the balance, with the hopes and prayers of the Ngāti Porou people intertwined with its survival.