The 2019 Myrtle Rust Science Symposium in Auckland on 9 and 10 September, will bring together organisations passionate about safeguarding and sustaining New Zealand's precious myrtles for future generations.
First detected in New Zealand in 2017, myrtle rust is now widely distributed across key parts of the North Island and in the north and west of the South Island. The invasive disease has the potential to damage many ecologically, economically and culturally significant tree species, including pōhutukawa, rāta and mānuka. Investment in science is helping increase understanding of the disease and management options.
"More than 100 delegates are expected to attend the 2-day event, including researchers, science funders, central and local government, Māori, environmental and industry groups," says Naomi Parker, manager of science policy at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Biosecurity New Zealand, part of MPI, is organising the symposium with support from the Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group and the Department of Conservation.
"The symposium will discuss the latest research progress, and what it means for the organisations working to limit the impact of myrtle rust," explains Dr Parker. "We will also hear about what's happening on the ground to manage the disease, and what is needed from the science."
Ken Hughey, chair of the Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group (SSAG) and the Department of Conservation's chief science adviser, says a key aim of the symposium is to strengthen the myrtle rust community so stakeholders continue to communicate and share research, insights and new work.
"Encouraging a collaborative community is an action coming out of the new Myrtle rust science plan, which has been developed by the SSAG to guide what science will be most valuable for the management of myrtle rust."
Dr Hughey says the science plan builds on research already underway and which will be shared at the September symposium. This includes the outcome of more than 20 research projects commissioned by Biosecurity New Zealand, on subjects ranging from seed banking to integrating mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) alongside western science to better understand the disease and its impacts on native taonga.
Speakers will also share updates on the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research ‘Beyond myrtle rust' programme, and the recently-established programme Ngā Rākau Taketake – Saving our Iconic Trees, administered by New Zealand's Biological Heritage Ngā Koiora Tuku Iko.
Answers to questions
What is the aim of the 2019 Myrtle Rust Science Symposium?
The symposium will bring together organisations passionate about safeguarding and sustaining New Zealand's precious myrtles for future generations.
Presenters will discuss the latest research progress, and what it means for the organisations working to limit the impact of myrtle rust. The programme will also highlight what's happening on the ground to manage the disease, and what is needed from the science.
A key aim of the symposium is to strengthen the myrtle rust community so stakeholders continue to communicate and share research, insights and new work. Encouraging a collaborative community is an action coming out of the new Myrtle rust science plan
Who will attend?
More than 100 delegates are expected to attend the 2-day event (in Auckland on 9 and 10 September 2019), including researchers, science funders, central and local government, Māori, environmental and industry groups.
Who is organising the symposium?
The symposium is being organised by Biosecurity New Zealand, part of the Ministry for Primary Industries. The event has attracted generous support from:
- Auckland Council
- Biosecurity 2025
- Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research
- New Zealand's Biological Heritage Ngā Koiora Tuku Iko
- Plant & Food Research
- Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group
Why was the Myrtle rust science plan developed?
New Zealand could have a narrow window of opportunity to identify ways to reduce the impact of myrtle rust on our forested, productive and urban landscapes.
Released in July 2019, the science plan was developed to ensure that the research undertaken in response to myrtle rust is coordinated, focused on agreed science research needs, and takes into account the impact of myrtle rust on people and communities, the environment, and the economy. The invasive disease has the potential to damage many ecologically, economically and culturally significant tree species, including pōhutukawa, rāta and mānuka, as well as shrubs and vines.
Following myrtle rust's detection in New Zealand in 2017, Biosecurity New Zealand invested more than $12 million to better understand and restrict the spread of disease, working closely with industry. As an invasive disease carried on the wind and by insects, birds, machinery and people, it is very difficult to manage. Despite the initial attempt to contain the disease, it is now present across key parts of the North Island and in the north and west of the South Island. The collective focus is now firmly on science and research to understand myrtle rust and its impacts, underpin management of the disease, and protect New Zealand ecosystems.
Who developed the science plan?
The science plan was developed by the Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group (SSAG) on behalf of all stakeholders and all New Zealanders. It can be used by all New Zealanders as a guide to what science will be most valuable for the management of myrtle rust.
SSAG members include expert scientists, iwi and representatives from government agencies, including the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation.
The SSAG developed the plan in consultation with relevant stakeholders. This included a Myrtle Rust workshop in December 2018, involving more than 50 researchers, Māori and stakeholders. The research priorities are aligned with the New Zealand Myrtle Rust Strategy 2019-2023 and its vision to ensure: The mauri of myrtle plants and dependent ecosystems is safeguarded and sustained.
Who will implement the plan?
The SSAG intends for the science plan to be used as a guideline for future research, where researchers, Māori, biosecurity managers such as councils, and end users of the research (including the public) work together, communicate and share at all stages of the research process – something the September symposium is supporting.
What are the science plan research priorities?
The priorities are grouped under 5 themes, with projects costed and prioritised according to urgency, feasibility and importance.
The themes cover the following:
- Develop and implement standardised and informative myrtle rust surveillance, monitoring and impact assessment programmes for New Zealand myrtle plants and associated ecosystems.
- Improve understanding of how the disease spreads, its impact on myrtle plants and ecosystems, including susceptibility and resilience.
- Ensure that Māori are able to contribute as full partners of Te Tiriti o Waitangi within myrtle rust research initiatives; participate in decision-making and activities at all levels; and that their unique contribution, including Mātauranga (knowledge) is valued.
- Understand the complex social and economic impacts of the myrtle rust invasion in order to better grasp the opportunities for improved management of the disease.
- Species conservation, disease and control management – this theme brings together critical findings of all the other themes to ensure new scientific knowledge is translated into management approaches and tools.
How much will the science plan research priorities cost?
An estimated $39 million over the next 5 to 10 years. The science plan research needs are all priorities for further funding. Research work currently underway has begun to address some of these.
How will the research be funded?
Scientists, research teams and research organisations are expected to collaborate and co-design research proposals and programmes based on plan priorities. Research organisations can apply to contestable science funds, such as the Endeavour Fund, and also use the plan to inform existing programmes relevant to myrtle rust.
The Government committed significant new investment to myrtle rust research last year which is being managed by New Zealand's Biological Heritage Ngā Koiora Tuku Iko (the BioHeritage Challenge); the Challenge is using the science plan in developing their programme. This is in addition to almost $19 million the Government has allocated to myrtle rust research since mid-2017.
Funders are expected to use the science plan to guide their decision-making around myrtle rust research.
Does the plan include infrastructure needs to help manage myrtle rust?
In addition to the critical research priorities, the science plan says essential infrastructure is required to support this research, such as seedbank facilities and accessible data and research outcomes. The estimated costs in the science plan are for research only and don't include infrastructure.
Who is responsible for managing myrtle rust?
While the collective focus is now firmly on science and research, the Department of Conservation, councils and other agencies, will continue to be involved in the long-term management of myrtle rust within existing budgets. DOC, for example, will continue its seed collection work. Biosecurity New Zealand has a role to play in coordinating the science plan, helping disseminate information about management options and coordinating the various groups and organisations involved in combatting myrtle rust.
Landowners, including the public, are now responsible for managing plants affected by the disease on their own properties. We will ensure they have access to information to help with this, primarily via the Myrtle rust in New Zealand website, which Biosecurity New Zealand will continue to manage.