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The untold stories of kauri dieback

Published: 1 February 2019

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The kauri story through a different lens

A new photography exhibition examines kauri dieback through a different lens by telling the personal stories of 26 people and their fight to save – and protect – the giant trees, as well as people who are affected by the track closures.

The stunning images, created by photographer Michelle Hyslop, will be suspended in the trees of Albert Park in central Auckland from 2 February to 6 March.

Hyslop says her goal was to put a human face to the disease and to tell deeply personal stories so the ongoing issue of kauri dieback was both relatable and thought-provoking for the wider public.

“The people I met throughout this project were inspiring. These magnificent trees are a huge part of New Zealand’s history and all of the people I photographed are dedicated to protecting them for future generations," she says.

When the majority of the Waitākere Ranges were closed to help protect kauri in the area, Hyslop noticed a lot of mixed feelings in the community.

“A couple of friends and I would go night running at Cascades and we would stop at a kauri called Auntie Agatha and spend a couple of minutes looking in awe. I would think, if this tree had eyes, imagine the things it must have seen in its life.”

This inspired her to investigate and understand the implications of the disease further and, through this process, Hyslop came to realise not only how many kauri had been affected but the impact it was having on people’s lives.

With the assistance of a $10,000 Pro Grant from Canon New Zealand, an annual scheme that funds one professional photographer’s project each year, she embarked on a six-month journey that took her from Waipoua Forest in the Far North to Rotorua, meeting local iwi, scientists, and members of the public who had a kauri story to tell.

One of the beautiful images features kaumatua Kevin Prime who uses karakia to connect with the creator of the trees, to help protect kauri on his 1060-hectare property.

Mr Prime says he also offers his karakia for others to use to help support the wider fight to protect kauri.  

“The use of karakia does not cost anything. All it takes is the belief of the person to think it and make it happen,” he says.

Another participant in the exhibition is Tammy Downes, from Laingholm in west Auckland, who has 100 kauri on her property which are all infected with dieback disease.

“I have injected all the trees with phosphite in an effort to extend their life and my hope is that my children’s children will be able to come back and appreciate these big, strong beautiful trees,” she says.

The project and exhibition have been facilitated by Canon New Zealand, which supplied Hyslop with the Pro Grant and printing of photographs for the exhibition, and Auckland Council which provided Albert Park as a unique exhibition space.

Brad Gibbons, General Manager for Canon Consumer, says for photographers, personal projects are incredibly important.

“We are proud to enable professional photographers through our Pro Grants scheme to create imagery that educates and raises awareness of environmental and social issues, a true reflection of our corporate philosophy, Kyosei, living and working together for the common good.”

Auckland Council’s Biosecurity Team Manager for kauri dieback says:

“Auckland Council is pleased to be supporting this exhibition, recognising the seriousness of the issue for Auckland, affecting many people in different ways.

"Encouraging and promoting a greater understanding of all perspectives is hugely important to the council, as is empowering Aucklanders to take action now to keep kauri standing for future generations.”

Accompanying the exhibition will be a waiata written specifically for kauri by Auckland Council’s Te Amohaere Ngata-Aerengamate, a member of the biosecurity team.

The exhibition runs from February 2, 2019 until March 6 in Albert Park. All images from the exhibition including supplementary images are available to view here

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