Cook Island imports under extra scrutiny after insect pest detected

4 April 2007

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand is examining ways to enhance border security after the detection in the Cook Islands of a vineyard pest, the Glassywinged Sharpshooter.

A specimen sent to MAF's Investigation and Diagnostic Centre at Tamaki was confirmed as Glassywinged Sharpshooter on Monday. So far, only two Glassywinged Sharpshooters have been detected in the Cook Islands, though further information is being sought. The MAF Quarantine Service has been alerted and there is an increased level of surveillance at the border on imports from the Cook Islands. There has been only one import consignment since the detection was made.

Acting biosecurity standards manager Dr Stephen Butcher says the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter is a well-known vineyard pest, and one the New Zealand wine industry is rightly concerned about.

"The Glassywinged Sharpshooter is a vector that spreads Pierce's Disease (Xylella fastidiosa) which affects grapevines. The insect also affects a wide range of other hosts such as pip fruit, summer fruits and citrus varieties and has also been known to affect native species. Both Glassywinged sharpshooter and Pierce's disease need to be present for vines to be affected and to date neither has been detected in New Zealand.

"The insect has been present in North America for a long time, but more recently has spread to Hawaii, then Tahiti, and has now been detected in the Cook Islands. We have contacted the Cook Island government and will be having further discussions around how we can keep this pest out of New Zealand" Dr Butcher says.

"With fruitfly already in the Cook Islands, imports from there are already tightly controlled. Obviously, we take precautions against insects arriving by any method, including disinfesting all international aircraft, and inspecting and treating cargoes when necessary.

"We're confident the existing measures are appropriate, and while we're never in a position to guarantee a pest will not arrive in New Zealand, with a warning like this it makes sense to review our systems and see if these can be strengthened."

"Of course, the public are also a line of defence, and for that reason the Glassywinged Sharpshooter has featured in our 'Know the Enemy' public awareness campaign. As with any suspected exotic pest, we encourage anyone suspecting they have found a Glassywinged Sharpshooter to (if possible) catch the insect and call the MAF exotic pest and disease hotline - 0800 80 99 66," Dr Butcher says.

Media contact:

Phil Barclay, Biosecurity New Zealand Senior Communications Adviser, 029 894 0432.

To report an exotic pest or disease, call the MAF Emergency Pest and Disease Hotline: 0800 80 99 66.

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33