Spray programme hits snag

26 November 2001

Plans to start targeted aerial spraying to eradicate the painted apple moth caterpillar in west Auckland suburbs, have hit a setback.

As a result, spraying won't start till the New Year at the earliest. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will give a minimum of two weeks notice before spraying does starts.

The aerial programme, which is a targeted, low level spraying operation over very selected areas, is a world first.

It was planned by MAF for maximum results to eradicate the pest with minimum impact on the smallest number of residents.

Because it's a new approach and a first for Waitakere, it affects special provisions in the city's District Plan which has rules applying to low-flying aircraft and noise. MAF is working to find a solution but the results of these discussions won't be known for several weeks.

In the meantime, ground spraying, trapping and property by property surveys, which have been carried out for the last two years, will continue.

MAF's Director of Forest Biosecurity, Dr Ruth Frampton, assures residents that they will be informed as soon as possible.

She says the postponement will mean there'll be more time to inform and talk to people about the programme.

Certain days have already been removed from the spray day calendar including Christmas, Boxing, New Year's Day and the day after and Anniversary weekend. Operators are also compiling a list of any special days, celebrations or events to make sure there's no spraying on days which could offend or affect cultural sensitivities or activities.

To ensure only the targeted areas are sprayed and spray drift is minimised, low-flying helicopters will be used with state-of-the-art imported spray equipment.

Aerial spraying to complement ground spraying is necessary to eradicate the pest from hard-to-reach areas and tall trees. Foray 48B, a Btk-based spray will be applied. It has been used before in New Zealand and overseas to eradicate similar pests. It specifically affects caterpillars and does not harm other animals, fish, birds, plants or humans.

Painted apple moth caterpillars have been recorded feeding on a wide range of host plants, native trees included. An economic assessment carried out by MAF conservatively estimates potential costs of $48 million over the next 20 years to forests, horticulture and the environment. The impact on conservation areas like the Waitakere Ranges is not known.

Aerial spraying will focus on the edges of the Whau River and nearby waterways and in the Waikumete Cemetery, areas where monitoring indicates pest populations are concentrated. The caterpillar has been found in the western Auckland suburbs of Glendene, Kelston, Titirangi, Glen Eden as well as Traherne Island and the Auckland City suburb of Avondale.

Since the Government decided to aerial spray, MAF has been consulting with a wide range of community groups and interested parties in the area. Public opinion surveys have been conducted, a health register and 0800 line established and an independent medical advisor has been engaged to help residents with health concerns.

For more information please contact:

Dr Ruth Frampton Director Forest Biosecurity Ph: 04 496 9639/027 435 0801
Mary-Ann Crawford, Communications. Ph: 09 913 1827/MOB 021 648 117

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