Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease that affects plants in the myrtle family. Plants in this family include the iconic pōhutukawa, mānuka and rātā as well as some common garden plants such as ramarama and lilly pilly.
If you think you've seen myrtle rust, don't touch it, take a photo, and call 0800 80 99 66.
8 September 2017
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has found a new area infected with the fungal plant disease myrtle rust.
Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) has been found in Northland, Waikato, Te Puke, and Taranaki. It is also widespread on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group north-east of Northland.
The fungus attacks plants belonging to the Myrtaceae family, also known as the myrtle family. It is found in many parts of the world including New Caledonia and all along Australia's eastern seaboard.
Spores can spread easily
Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and can easily spread across large distances by wind, or via insects, birds, people, or machinery.
Evidence suggests the fungus arrived in New Zealand carried by strong winds from Australia where it is well established all down the eastern coast.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Department of Conservation (DOC), with the help of local iwi, the nursery industry, and local authorities are running a large operation to determine the scale of the situation and attempt to contain and control myrtle rust in the areas it has been found.
What you can do
Look out for signs of myrtle rust. If you think you see the symptoms of myrtle rust:
- don't touch it
- call the MPI Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline immediately on 0800 80 99 66
- if you have a camera or phone camera, take clear photos, including the whole plant, the whole affected leaf, and a close-up of the spores or affected area of the plant.
Remember, don't touch it or try to collect samples as this may increase the spread of the disease.
Do not attempt to self-treat trees and plants with fungicide, either for a cure or to try to prevent myrtle rust infection. We are still building a picture of whereabouts the disease is present nationally, and if people use preventative sprays, it could suppress symptoms, and prevent us from making the best management decisions for the country.
MPI introduced a Controlled Area on 28 June 2017. It extends 10km from the known infected areas in Waitara, Taranaki.
Legal Controlled Area Notice [PDF, 2.3 MB]
The Controlled Area extends 10km out from each Restricted Place (properties where myrtle rust infection has been found) across a large part of north Taranaki. To the west, the Area takes in New Plymouth city and Spotswood, ending approximately at the intersection of SH45 and Sealy Road. To the east, it includes Waitara and Urenui and ends at approximately the intersection of SH3 and Uruti Road. And to the south, it includes Inglewood and ends just past the intersection of SH3 and Durham Road (Upper and Lower).
Moving plants from the myrtle family out of the Controlled Area is unlawful
- It is unlawful to move plants, including trees, or plant material (such as garden waste, tree prunings) from the myrtle family (with the exception of feijoas) out of this area. You can still buy and plant these species inside the Controlled Area.
- Following a full assessment, MPI has found that feijoa plants do not appear to be affected by myrtle rust. It has been decided that feijoas present an extremely low risk of disease spread and feijoas can now be freely moved within and out of the Controlled Area.
- Information about feijoas and myrtle rust [PDF, 356 KB]
- Dispose of green waste responsibly within the Controlled Area – for example, at the Waitara transfer station or the New Plymouth landfill
How to check if your property or business is in the Controlled Area
Use our interactive map to find out if you're in the Controlled Area by typing in your address.
We've also put up road signs in Taranaki making it easy to see where the zone begins and ends.
More than 60 properties in Taranaki are affected by the myrtle rust fungus. Putting restrictions on moving myrtle plants and material out of the area where the rust has been found will help prevent the fungus spreading to other parts of the country. It will also allow us to get rid of myrtle rust in the places where it has been found.
List of plants in the myrtle family [PDF, 550 KB]
Symptoms to look out for
It generally attacks soft, new growth, including:
- leaf surfaces
- shoots and buds
- flowers, and fruit.
Symptoms to look out for on myrtle plants are:
- bright yellow powdery eruptions appearing on the underside of the leaf (young infection)
- bright yellow powdery eruptions on both sides of the leaf (mature infection)
- brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) on older lesions.
- grey, 'fuzzy' spore growth on undersides of leaves.
Some leaves may become buckled or twisted and die off.
Pictures of some types of trees that may be affected
Videos on YouTube featuring 'Bug Man' Ruud Kleinpaste
Advice for specific groups
Our information sheet has specific advice for:
- feijoa growers
- other orchardists
- nursery owners
- home gardeners
- walkers and trampers.
Download the information sheet [PDF, 548 KB]
Risk to New Zealand
Myrtle rust could affect iconic New Zealand plants including pōhutukawa, mānuka, rātā, kānuka, swamp maire and ramarama, as well as commercially-grown species such as eucalyptus.
Severe infestations can kill affected plants and have long-term impacts on the regeneration of young plants and seedlings.
It is not yet known how this disease will affect New Zealand species. Overseas its impacts have varied widely from country to country and plant species to species.
What MPI is doing
MPI is working with DOC, iwi, the nursery industry, scientists, and local authorities to contain and control myrtle rust infections.
We've set up a Controlled Area around Waitara in Taranaki. That puts restrictions on moving myrtle species plants (with the exception of feijoa) out of this area.
Where outbreaks of myrtle rust are found, affected plants are removed. Other myrtle plants on the property are marked for continual observation for signs of myrtle rust. A large operation is underway to determine where myrtle rust is and how it should be managed in the future. Over winter the disease has been less aggressive and symptoms harder to spot. As spring takes hold, we should be able to build a better picture of what we are dealing with and make plans for how the disease can be managed in future.
Find out more
- Myrtle rust A2 Poster [PDF, 13 MB]
- Read more about myrtle rust
- Download the myrtle rust fact sheet [PDF, 1.5 MB]
- Myrtle rust – DOC website
Who to contact
If you have questions about myrtle rust, email email@example.com