Myrtle rust found for first time in Manawatu

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Media contact: MPI media team

Telephone: 029 894 0328

Email: media@mpi.govt.nz

Myrtle rust has been detected in Manawatu for the first time, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirmed today.

The fungus was found on a young ramarama (Lophomyrtus) in a planted area off Victoria Esplanade in Palmerston North.

Myrtle rust response spokesperson Dr Catherine Duthie says operational activity will start immediately to try to contain the disease.

"Hopefully, we have found it in this region early, which would give us a chance of trying to eliminate it or, at least, slow down the spread there. We are swinging straight into action. The infected plant will be removed and securely disposed of and one of our 7 field surveillance teams will begin an intensive inspection of myrtle plants on all properties within a200-metree radius."

"It is disheartening that myrtle rust has been detected in another region, but it is consistent with the expected infection pattern.

"Residents can help, by checking the myrtle plants in their garden. At this time of year, the fungus is still in its sporulation, or spreading, stage. This means it is very visible. Without touching the plant, you can look on either side of the leaves and new shoots for any sign of a bright yellow, powdery eruption. Some leaves could also be buckled or twisted, or look diseased with dry pustules that are grey or brown. It's really important not to touch the plants or brush against them, as this can disrupt the spores and speed up its spread."

Any suspected cases of myrtle rust can be reported to the biosecurity freephone number – 0800 80 99 66. MPI will investigate suspected cases, track and monitor its spread, and collect information to help understand the disease's impact on New Zealand.

At 19 March, there has been a total of 409 properties affected by myrtle rust on mainland New Zealand: Northland (4 properties), Auckland (63), Waikato (33), Bay of Plenty (92), Taranaki (200), Manawatu (1) and Wellington (16). In the last couple of weeks, most detections have been in Taranaki and Auckland.

There have been no detections in the South Island to date, although north-western areas were identified in climate modelling of being at a high risk from spores carried on the wind from Australia.

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