Plant nurseries under legal controls to help contain spread of myrtle rust

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today placed legal controls on plant nurseries associated with the current myrtle rust situation, requiring them to continue to follow approved hygiene measures to manage any risk of spreading the fungal plant disease.

The controls, set out in a Notice of Direction under the Biosecurity Act, make it mandatory for all plant producers and retailers in the Kerikeri area, and those businesses around New Zealand that have received high-risk (myrtle species) plants from the affected Kerikeri Plant Production, to follow MPI-approved management protocols. This will apply to around 45 nurseries nationwide although this number may well change as tracing activities continue.

MPI's Director Response, Geoff Gwyn, says nurseries have already given huge support to the response by following the protocols voluntarily since the third day of the operation.

"I would like to thank New Zealand Plant Producers Inc. for the development of the approved protocols. This should not require a significant change in the way the nurseries do business. It will, however, give them long term certainty about how to effectively manage any risk associated with their business. Importantly, it will enable them to continue business and lessen the impacts on the local economy."

NZPPI Independent Chair, Andrew Harrison, says in short, the notice requires that plant producers and retailers follow hygiene, containment, and management protocols which increase the chances of early detection and lower the possibility of any further spread of myrtle rust.

"Myrtle rust has been a call to arms for our industry, with strong uptake of the protocols we put in place early on. Early reporting by plant producers has been rapidly followed up by MPI and those reporting have done exactly the right thing.

"One of the key aspects of the protocols is to make sure any suspicious symptoms are reported to MPI and plants are physically isolated until MPI arrives. Our members are on the frontline of this response.

"NZPPI is in full support of the Ministry's approach, and we are working with affected plant producers and the Ministry to ensure the direction is effectively implemented," Mr Harrison says.

The situation in the myrtle rust response remains unchanged - there are still just 2 known infected properties. The initial nursery in Kerikeri where the myrtle rust incursion was first detected and a neighbouring residential garden.

All other suspected finds that have been sampled have tested negative for myrtle rust.

"This does not mean there is room for complacency," Mr Gwyn says. "We are still in full response to this situation and working to locate any other potential areas of infection out there."

Surveillance activities continue in Northland with MPI and a range of partners including DOC, Northland Regional Council, iwi and growers checking high risk sites for any sign of myrtle rust. MPI is talking with iwi on a regular basis and an individual from the local hapu is being trained and embedded in the surveillance team.

The public message remains - 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 the MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

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