Northland myrtle rust infection – still just the one confirmed property
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says currently there is still just the one property where the fungal disease myrtle rust has been confirmed.
Yesterday afternoon, as a result of tracing customers of the initial affected nursery, plants with rust-like symptoms were found at a second Kerikeri plant nursery. However, this morning the Ministry’s plant health laboratory test results were 'negative' for myrtle rust.
MPI’s Director Response Geoff Gwyn says the lab team cannot guarantee that this is not a false negative result – this can happen for a number of reasons.
"The field team have resampled at the site and will send fresh samples to the lab shortly. As a precautionary measure, there are controls in place on the second nursery restricting the movements of people and plants out of the property."
Mr Gwyn says in addition, the lab is also currently testing samples from a third location where suspected myrtle rust has been found. This is a neighbouring property to the original infected nursery.
"We're dealing with a very fluid situation here," Mr Gwyn says. "Given the ease with which this fungus can be spread on the wind, on contaminated footwear and clothing and on tools. Our staff are following stringent protocols to avoid spreading the disease.
Myrtle rust infection has the potential to seriously damage various species of native and introduced plants in the myrtle family, including pohutukawa, rata, manuka, gum, bottlebrush and feijoa.
However the disease, which is present in many locations around the world including Australia, is known to have different effects on plants from country to country and location to location.
"We still do not know how it will behave in New Zealand conditions," Mr Gwyn says. A large team of 70 people from MPI, DOC, AsureQuality and the Northland Regional Council has been on the ground in Kerikeri throughout the weekend and the numbers are increasing.
The main job continues to be inspecting the area in a 500m radius from the initial affected location for signs of myrtle rust.
In addition, staff are focusing on tracing customers of the affected nursery. There is a big push on encouraging members of the public to be on the lookout for the disease. Teams were at two weekend farmers markets, handing out information leaflets to members of the public and talking to gardeners and nursery plant sellers. People are also providing information at Kerikeri supermarkets and at a local chocolate factory that has large numbers of visitors.
The message is: if you believe you have seen signs of myrtle rust - DO NOT TOUCH IT or the plant. Take a photo of the rust and the plant. Call MPI on 0800 80 99 66.