Kerikeri myrtle rust response – media update 9 May 2017

Date:

Media contact: MPI media team

Telephone: 029 894 0328

Email: media@mpi.govt.nz

Some 100 people from Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Department of Conservation (DOC), AsureQuality and the Northland Regional Council are on the ground and work has been completed checking the area in a radius of 500 metres from the affected nursery. Checks are now being made on a slightly wider area taking in the new confirmed find in the same road.

Currently there are 2 confirmed properties where myrtle rust has been found. The first is the nursery that first reported the infection to MPI. The second is a neighbouring residential property where it has been isolated on one tree.

There are 2 other locations where there has been a suspected find. One is another Kerikeri plant nursery. Initial laboratory tests on samples from this nursery were negative for myrtle rust. Re-testing of samples from this nursery is again negative. So as a result, it is no longer under suspicion.

The other new suspect location is a further neighbouring property to the first positive nursery. Sampling and testing is underway there.

All suspect and confirmed infected properties are under a Restricted Place Notice. This means there are controls on the movement of materials from the sites and people need to take precautions to ensure their clothing and footwear is clean prior to leaving the properties. Note the notice has been lifted from the second nursery which is no longer a suspect property.

MPI is committed to doing the best possible job to prevent the spread of myrtle rust. We have to be realistic, though, that this is a disease that spreads by microscopic spores that can be carried by the wind and on people, vehicles and equipment. Containing it may not be possible.

There has never been a successful eradication of myrtle rust anywhere in the world.

This response is still in its early days. We do not know yet what the impacts of this might be on myrtle species in New Zealand. We know that internationally its effects have varied from country to country and plant to plant.

As well as operational activities in the field, MPI and its partners have put in a huge effort to communicate with potentially impacted iwi, commercial growing industries and the wider public.

Since the weekend, field personnel have been making marae visits in Northland, talking with kaumatua of local iwi. There is also representation from the Maori Biosecurity Capability Network on the group providing the response with technical guidance.

The decision-making body of the response, known as the Governance Group, includes senior representatives from iwi, the beekeeping industry and the nursery production industry.

There is extensive advertising underway in Northland, via print, radio, digital, leaflets and social media – all encouraging vigilance from the general public.

We have had a positive response from Northland residents providing useful information, including a number of potential finds which we're looking into.

The message remains - if you believe you have seen signs of myrtle rust:

  • do not touch it or the plant
  • take a photo of the rust and the plant
  • call MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

Unless there is a significant development, MPI's next update will be at 1pm tomorrow.

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