Myrtle rust update – Wednesday 24 May 2017

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 8940328

The number of properties infected with myrtle rust continues to rise slowly with confirmation today of a new detection in Northland.

A private garden in Kaikohe has tested positive for the fungus. It was found on plants that had been purchased from a nursery where myrtle rust has been found.

The total number of affected properties nationally now stands at 17 in 3 regions – Northland, Taranaki and Waikato.

The majority of properties are in Taranaki where it has appeared on plants in nurseries, plant retailers and distributors, an orchard and private gardens.

To date, the rust has been found on pōhutukawa, lophomyrtus, gum trees and a single instance of mānuka. It has not been observed on feijoa as yet.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is receiving unprecedented support from members of the public, with well over 400 reports of suspected symptoms to its 0800 number.

Of those reports, a small percentage require sampling and testing. The Ministry is able to distinguish the highest risk reports from photographs. Myrtle rust only affects plants in the myrtle family, so any rust symptoms on other plants can immediately be discounted.

MPI thanks people for their vigilance in this situation. Their reports are helping to build a picture of where the rust is present and inform plans being made for the future management of the fungus.

The Ministry is working closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC) in the effort to manage the situation. This is the largest deployment of staff in DOC's history with some 125 people dedicated to the response. The department is doing everything it can to counter myrtle rust.

It's important all New Zealanders in every part of the country look for signs of myrtle rust including in the South Island. Many common garden plants are members of the myrtle family and any new growth is susceptible, so please examine very carefully the underside of new leaves in Lily-Pily (Eugenia), bottlebrush, mānuka, gum, guava and feijoia, especially if they are recently purchased plants from nurseries or ordered online.

People can report any suspected signs of myrtle rust to MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66. Do not touch the rust or the plant because the fine wind-borne spores are very easily spread on clothes or shoes. Note the location and take photos of the symptoms and the plant.

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