MAF to test fruit fly response capability

29 November 2002

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) will be holding a Queensland fruit fly response simulation between the 2nd and 4th of December at Mangere, Auckland.

Barney Stephenson, MAF's National Adviser Plant Pest Surveillance and Response, described the simulation as a low profile event designed to test existing systems that are in place. The exercise will include AgriQuality New Zealand who are contracted by MAF to supply field activities during a response.

Over the three days field activities will involve checking lure traps, surveying properties within 200 metres of an imaginary fruit fly find, checking systems for applying spots of the protein hydrolysate bait mixture to suitable vegetation, and resolving any issues that arise.

Information from these activities will be relayed back to the response headquarters, which will be responsible for managing all the field activities and dealing with operational issues as they arise.

Dr Stephenson said these exercises enable staff to develop and maintain their skills, improve their systems, and they also provide opportunity to demonstrate MAF's capability to manage an exotic pest incursion. MAF Plants Biosecurity routinely schedules two exotic pest simulations each year.

"For pests like fruit fly, it is important that trained staff are available who understand the management system and the control procedures that will be used, so activities can be conducted promptly and effectively," he said.

Queensland fruit fly is considered one of Australia's most serious insect pests of fruit and vegetable crops. If ever it was to become established in New Zealand it would have a significant impact on our fresh produce trade.

MAF operates an ongoing nation-wide fruit fly surveillance programme to ensure early detection and eradication of the pest. This includes the placement of approximately 7,500 traps at 3500 high risk sites around the country such as air and sea ports, main centres and horticulture areas.

There has been no detection of any species of fruit fly in New Zealand since the discovery and subsequent eradication of Mediterranean fruit fly back in 1996. In response to this find MAF introduced x-ray machines for checking baggage at Auckland airport.

For more information contact:

Philippa White, Communications Adviser, 025 223 1875
Barney Stephenson, 04 474 4102 or 025 893913

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