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Touring New Zealand 2016 - part 2

Tuesday 2 February

In spite of the heat, our cabin has such a beautiful view onto the Hokianga harbour that we decided to stay for a second day. Low tide today is just after 11.00 so the walk along the beach to see the Koutu Boulders was a perfect option for the morning. It is only possible to walk along the beach at two hours either side of low tide. The entry is quite well signposted at the west end of the Koutu Loop Road. It was about 2 hours roundtrip along the beach to the largest of the boulders by the time we had taken lots of pictures – those near the car park are only a sample of those around the corner beyond the High Tide walkway to Cable Bay. The largest are about 3 metres in diameter and stretch over a mile of coastline and are in many ways more impressive than the better known Moeraki Boulders.

Now we were staying one extra day it was necessary to find more food, or else open the emergency tins of tuna. Down by the ferry we paid $15 per kilo for flounder, then after buying a lemon we found the vege man also kept fresh and frozen meat. In spite of being a small town it is possible to get the basic essentials. Back at our cabin we decided to have coffee, then attack our tub of ice cream, then read yesterdays newspaper which was used as wrapping. The current topics of the day are the problems of young people stealing cars and driving too fast, the Iowa caucus in the USA, and the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) which is due to be signed in Auckland on Thursday.

A Digression - The TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement)

The TPPA has been under negotiation for many years – so many that it is mentioned in the Open University LLM course material as an example of an international trade treaty. The New Zealand Herald of 1 February 2016 describes the progress from the NZ-Singapore Closer Economic Partnership in 1999, expanded by Chile and Brunei in 2005. Then USA, Australia, Vietnam and Peru joined what was now described as “TPP talks” in early 2010. Malaysia joined later in 2010 then Mexico and Canada in 2012 then Japan in 2013. It is Ministers from these 12 countries who will sign the TPP at the ceremony in Auckland. The TPP has consequences for Maori according to a paper by Jones, Charters, Eruti and Kelsey on “Maori rights, Te Tiriti O Waitangi and the TPPA” https://tpplegal.wordpress.com/. The TTPA talks were only concluded in October 2015 and the final document is 6000 pages. It is not surprising that media and interested groupings are not happy that such a long document which has only recently been finalised should be formally agreed and signed after only 3 months.

Whilst Pauline was investigating the TTPA Pete did some basic fact gathering on Kauri Dieback as there seemed'sto be very little comprehensive documentation of kauri dieback which both gives even a half way satisfactory scientific description yet can be understood by a layman - and unusually that included Wikipedia. Pete has therefore tried to pull some of the material together - there are simplifications and it lacks references but it is a starting point. Wikipedia has a link to a blank page on Kauri Dieback (Phytophthora Taxon Agathis or PTA )itself and he may use some of the following as a catalyst to get a true expert to put something in place!

A second Digression - Kauri Dieback (Phytophthora Taxon Agathis) - Update February 2016

Since the various visits covered below the whole of New Zealand Kauri has become threatened by a disease kn0wn as Kauri Dieback. This was brought home vividly in the Waipoua, Warawara and Puketi forests which we visited in 2015 and together contain about three quarters of New Zealand's remaining mature kauri trees. The Waipoua forest holds the largest remaining stands of these trees. It contains Te Matua Ngahere, a notable kauri tree that is the largest in New Zealand by girth and the second largest by volume, and is estimated to be from 2,000 to 3,000 years old as well as many of the most famous trees such as Tane Mahuta.

Kauri dieback is the deadly kauri disease caused by a specific species of Phytophthora, a fungus-like disease which was first formally identified in 2008 although kauri die back spores were first found over 40 years ago on Great Barrier Island where it was misidentified as Phytophthora Hevae. It's full name is Phytophthora Taxon Agathis (PTA). Kauri dieback is currently believed to be specific to New Zealand kauri and can kill trees of all ages. The microscopic spores in the soil infect kauri roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree. Infected trees show a range of symptoms including yellowing of foliage, loss of leaves, canopy thinning, canopy dieback, dead branches and lesions that bleed gum at the base of the trunk. Nearly all infected kauri die. In the past 10 years, kauri dieback has killed thousands of kauri in New Zealand. In the lab it has been shown to kill saplings in as little as three weeks. It's origin and time of arrival in New Zealand is still unknown, but the limited evidence suggests it was introduced from overseas. This assumption is largely based on the narrow genetic variation found in the disease population (indicating a relatively recent introduction that hasn't had time to evolve variation) and the preference for high soil temperatures which suggests a more tropical origin.

Kauri dieback has been found in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, on private land throughout the Auckland region, in the forest plantations of Omahuta, Glenbervie and Russell in Northland, Department of Conservation reserves at Okura, Albany, Pakiri, Great Barrier, Trounson Kauri Park and Waipoua Forest in Northland close to Tane Mahuta, and most recently in bush in the Coromandel Peninsula. It was also present in some nurseries providing kauri seedlings.

There is no known treatment at this time although experiments are under way on control mechanisms which may delay damage to some iconic trees whilst a cure is sought. Phosphite salts are, for example, used as a biodegradable treatment for a number of Phytophthorata species to protect plants against dieback. It is usually applied as potassium phosphite, derived from phosphorous acid neutralized with potassium hydroxide. Calcium and magnesium phosphite may also be used. Phosphite works by boosting the plant's own natural defences and thereby allowing susceptible plants to survive within dieback infested sites. It is important to note that there is no treatment that will eradicate phytophthora dieback, including phosphite. However, an integrated approach can help control the spread and impact of the disease.

The major mechanism for spread is believed to be transport of contaminated soil and various cleaning stations have been set up for cleaning footware on entering and leaving areas of containing kauri but few people seem to take them seriously. Boardwalks have always been built to reduce damage to shallow kauri roots and have been installed in areas at risk although there seems to be no attempt to prevent incoming contamination reaching the ground from the boardwalk. PTA has also been shown to travel in NZ watercourses as well as waterfilms within the soil. We were also told by a "Kauri Ambassador" at Tane Mahuta that hunters are being deployed to kill all wildlife which could transfer contaminated soil - this seems to be in addition to the usual programs of control through poisons.

The name Phytophthora is derived from Greek and literally means “plant destroyer". It is a genus of plant-damaging Oomycetes, often known as "water molds" first studied in 1875 and now there are over 100 species known, the vast majority of which are active plant pathogens. Phytophthora species are, in fact, among the most destructive pathogens of agricultural crops and forests in the world. Phytophthora infestans was, for example, the infective agent of the potato blight that caused the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), and still remains the most destructive pathogen of crops such as tomato and potato. Many Phytophthora are however relatively host-specific parasites. In general, plant diseases caused by this genus are difficult or impossible to control chemically, thus the growth of resistant cultivars is the main management strategy. Phytophthora diseases hit plants from trees to cucumbers and strawberries.

Phytophthora is sometimes referred to as a fungus-like organism, but it is classified under a different kingdom altogether: Chromalveolata. This is a good example of convergent evolution: Phytophthora is very similar to true fungi yet its evolutionary history is quite distinct. In contrast to fungi, chromalveolatas are more closely related to plants than animals. Their Chromosomes are quite different. Phytophthora is a genus of microorganisms which includes water molds, diatoms and brown algae. They resemble fungi because they grow by means of fine filaments, called hyphae, and produce spores but unlike true fungi, their cell walls contain cellulose instead of chitin, their hyphae lack cross-walls, and different phases, dominate their life cycle. Phytophthora species may reproduce sexually or asexually. Phytophthora Taxon Agusta (PTA), importantly, is one of the species that produces swimming spores, called zoospores, during one phase of its life cycle, a vestige of its evolutionary origins in water. The life cycle of PTA is complex and some phases (oospores in particular) are extremely resistant and can survive for four or more years in the soil whilst the the zoospores can swim through waterlogged soil to the kauri roots. The oospores and zoospores are microscopic (under 10 microns) and can not be seen by the naked eye. A summary of the life cycle is

  1. Oospores (resting and very resistant spores) are introduced into an area of kauri.
  2. Oospores germinate to form sporangia, the structure which produces zoospores
  3. These zoospores are released from the sporangia during and immediately after heavy rain
  4. The zoospores (mobile spores) swim through soil-water to kauri roots, attach to the root surface, germinate to produce mycelia which infects the kauri root
  5. The organism grows through the root system to affect the tissues at the base of the trunk that transport nutrients and water to canopy.
  6. More sporangia are formed from areas of infected root which release more zoospores during and after heavy rain
  7. Oospores form within infected tree tissue and are release into the soil as tissue decays.
  8. These oospores are transported in soil to a new area, predominantly by humans and animals, to start the cycle in a new location.

Some additional sources of information in http://www.kauridieback.co.nz/kauri-dieback/how-does-it-spread and the links it contains.

Wednesday 3 February

Departing from Rawene at 1000 we drove to the Waimate Mission House, belonging to the Historic Places Trust (HPT), which unfortunately was closed on Wednesday but we were able to admire the little church next door and walk around the gardens.

We hoped to find somewhere to stay in Kerikeri but our attempts were not successful so we rang ahead to Oronga Bay near Russell and were able to find a cabin there for 2 nights. This meant we could relax and visit the Kemp House and the Stone Store, both owned by the HPT.
There is a good New World supermarket in Kerikeri which is complemented by roadside stalls selling local oranges and other fruits. Shopping completed it was an easy drive to Paihia and then onwards to Opua for the little ferry across to Russell. Oronga Bay is midway between the ferry landing and Russell, and it is very peaceful. We were told that there were lots of birds and to watch for their Wekas. That was easy because the family seemed to live under our cabin, alongside a dozen very friendly and hungry ducks. It was such a contrast to Rawene where the local cat would have feasted on them all.

Thursday 4 February

It was too far to walk to Russell if we did any shopping so we drove. First stop was the bakery to buy a local rewana loaf, a Maori sour-dough potato bread that we like which is only available in a few places we know of including the bakery in Russell. We then considered whether to catch the ferry to Paihia. There is a good service but it is now $12.50 each for a return ticket and we can always go there by car tomorrow. The HPT Pompallier House was open, and we just had time to climb to the top of their garden to admire the view before it was time to join our guided tour. Since we last visited the entrance has been moved further along the waterfront and the caretakers house has become a shop and reception for the house. There are no people working in the tannery or in the printing or bookbinding rooms but our guide gave an entertaining and useful description of what actually happened.

In the afternoon we did a walk from the Holiday Park across the Mangrove swamps and on towards the ferry. There used to be manganese Mines up the hill with an aerial ropeway down to a barge used for loading the ore. many of the boulders fell off and can still be seen in the swamp.

Friday 5 February

Overnight it rained, as predicted, and continued in the morning. Packing started in between the showers then continued using a golf umbrella. The ferry back to Opua arrived quickly and we easily reached Kawakawa before the departure of the 1045 tourist train. It was diesel hauled and runs down the centre of the main street so is something of a surprise to large vehicles. Heading south we bought more dutch cheese at Kaiwaka and then noticed a local farmers market opposite where we bought Turkish filo pastries stuffed with feta cheese and spinach. The main SH1 was busy and as we reached Wellsford we decided to take the quieter road through Helensville and Kumeu. We would be staying with family overnight.

Saturday 6 February

This is Waitangi Day and also a long holiday weekend and we left Chris early to try and get ahead of the crowds on the motorway. Our route to Paeroa was on the motorway through Auckland and we were lucky that it did not become congested until south of Auckland. Road signs warned of problems with an incident in the Kaurangahape Gorge, beyond Paeroa, but we hoped it would not affect our journey. There was a short detour to Thames to buy more wine for the evening. The School of Mines was closed because of the festival but there were signs to the Bella Pumphouse Museum.

The Bella Pumphouse Museum was fascinating and we had an individual guided tour by a volunteer who explained the importance of the Pumphouse which was built to drain a new 1000 feet level in the Queen of Beauty Mine and adjacent properties. It was started in 1898 and was ultimately intended to be able to pump from a depth of 2000 feet. In operation there was a Boiler House and Stoke Hole, the Pumping Building, Smoke Stack and the associated winding gear. The engines were fed from a huge bank of 10 Lancashire boilers made locally by Price Brothers at Thames. The shaft contained both the pumping and the winding gear whose massive Poppet head's 4 legs were made of kauri 65 feet in length and 2 foot 6 inches wide at the base. It was also used as a platform for local people to view the town! Unfortunately the only pieces of original machinery that have survived are the quadrants, each 25 tons, and the crank shaft which was coupled through a reduction gear and some of the patterns for smaller castings.

There are several models which show how the machinery would have worked and they have built replica flywheels of wood to give an impression of how big it all was. The original flywheel weighed in at 30 tons and the spur wheel with 4 to1 reduction gear was even heavier. There were pumps, cisterns and balance bobs at two more levels underground so each lift was about 330 feet. The pumps consisted of two pairs of 25 inch plungers and one pair of 25 inch draw lifts with strokes of 6 feet. The concrete base on which the pump gear was mounted was a massive block of concrete 18 feet deep and weighing 6000 tons. The steel pump rods were in 28 foot sections which weighed nearly two tons each hence the huge balance weights needed. They and most of the engines and boilers and other surface equipment were sold in 1918, mostly for scrap.

Little mining was actually done at 1000 feet as the first cross cut to connect to the other mines which were also being extended down to 1000 foot struck the Moanataiari fault and the water ingress was so considerable the pump could only just cope. The fault was known and a diamond drill bore hole was being run ahead and the pressure was such that 6 men could not hold the drill into the hole and it was forced out, it was latter measured at over 300 psi. The water ingress combined with bad air finally caused the mine to be closed by the mining inspector in 1914 before work around tunnels could be completed to avoid the fault. Once the pump was turned off the whole mine system was rapidly flooded.

The museum also has a number of other interesting pieces of equipment including the original power station for Thames which was built into the old structure and the generator, Pelton wheel and automatic water flow regulator are still present. There are various collections of other related equipment including old control panels and meters. We spent a couple of hours and could easily have spent longer. We will return for another visit having read the background in some of the Thames Goldfield Information Series booklets ('Thames Hauraki Pumping Plant' No 15 and 'Last Great Effort' No 33 to be specific).

As we left Thames there were new road signs warning that SH2 was now closed, and when we reached the centre of Paeroa, at the junction with the iconic L&P bottle, we were confronted by police cars forcing traffic onto a detour. Driving around the block we were able to get back onto SH2 where we found another two police cars. Fortunately the accident, a different one to the earlier one, was near Waihi and so we were allowed to continue along a very deserted SH2 to reach our friends' house.

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Content revised: 4st April, 2016