The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has found a new area infected with the fungal plant disease myrtle rust.
The fungus has been found on 2 properties in the Otorohanga township – in both cases on a single ramarama tree. These finds are new positive detections of myrtle rust outside of the known established areas in Taranaki and Te Puke.
The Ministry's myrtle rust response Incident Controller Dr Catherine Duthie says the 2 properties do not have any connection with nurseries or other infected properties in Taranaki. It would appear these are infections that have occurred by wind dispersal from Australia, like the infections in other regions.
"We located these infected plants through our ongoing checks of areas that we’d identified as at-risk due to prevailing wind direction, the presence of host species and climate.
"Along with the Department of Conservation, we’ve been carrying out surveillance for the disease throughout the winter, even though myrtle rust is generally inactive in colder weather and the symptoms are less obvious.
"We had known that a reappearance of obvious myrtle rust symptoms was likely in spring – so while this is disappointing, it’s not unexpected," Dr Duthie says.
The 2 properties are being placed under legal restrictions to stop any movement of plant material off the sites. MPI will safely remove and destroy the 2 affected plants within the next few days.
After this, teams will be at work in the area checking all myrtle plants in a 500 metre radius out from the 2 finds. This could take up to a fortnight.
MPI continues to encourage people to check myrtle species plants – for example, pohutukawa, ramarama, mānuka, feijoa, and bottlebrush.
"If you believe you’ve seen the disease, don’t touch it, take photos if possible, note the location and contact us on 0800 80 99 66," Dr Duthie says.
"We need to keep hearing where the disease is to help build a picture of its distribution and to enable us to best plan for how we manage it in future."