The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today lifted restrictions on the movement of myrtle plants or green waste from Taranaki.
The Controlled Area Notice was put in place 8 months ago and made it illegal to move myrtle plant material from a 20 kilometre area in Waitara in north Taranaki – the area most affected by myrtle rust at that time.
Despite the movement restrictions, myrtle rust has continued to be detected outside Taranaki, says myrtle rust incident controller Dr Catherine Duthie.
"Recent weather experienced across much of the country – warm, wet and windy – has been optimal for myrtle rust sporulation and 6 regions are now known to be infected.
"The reasons for having a controlled area focused on Waitara no longer remain."
Last June, most myrtle rust infections had been detected in plant nurseries on young plants that would be sold and moved elsewhere. The Controlled Area Notice aimed to restrict movement of susceptible plants to help reduce the spread of the disease to unaffected areas.
Since July, most detections have been found on mature trees in residential properties. This increases the likelihood that myrtle rust spores have been spreading naturally on the wind.
"Unfortunately, restricting movement of myrtle plant matter from one area could not contain the spread of the disease," says Dr Duthie.
The removal of the Controlled Area Notice does not change the status of individual properties that have been placed under control through a Restricted Place Notice. These remain in force.
Dr Duthie praised the local community for a high level of support to the myrtle rust response.
"We have received an outstanding level of support and co-operation from across the community, from iwi, garden centres, and commercial nurseries, and the Department of Conservation. People have pulled together and have committed to doing all they can to protect our trees from this challenging fungus. None of us is giving up.
"We are collecting a lot of information to build a good picture of myrtle rust's impacts and spread. There is research underway to better understand how the fungus behaves in New Zealand conditions and to identify risk factors, resistant species, and potential treatment and management tools. Communities are working together to initiate ongoing surveillance and seed banking programmes. And we continue to investigate and remove infected plants where this would help to contain the disease and slow its spread.
"We encourage people to keep checking their myrtle plants and to immediately contact the biosecurity hotline (0800 80 99 66) if they spot any signs of myrtle rust. We will investigate suspected infections and track the progress and spread of confirmed infections."
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