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Field work ramps up to tackle Queensland fruit fly

Field work ramps up to tackle Queensland fruit fly

Some 70 field workers are out in Whangarei today setting additional traps to lure any Queensland fruit flies that may be in the area.

The response work follows the detection earlier this week of a single male fruit fly in a purpose designed surveillance trap.

MPI is working to ascertain whether there is a breeding population of the pest flies present. The Queensland fruit fly feeds on a large range of fruits and vegetable plants and if established here, could have serious consequences for our horticulture industries and home gardens.

Ministry Deputy Director-General, Compliance and Response, Andrew Coleman says the field workers, from MPI’s frontline troops and the operations provider AsureQuality, are extending the existing trap network in place and checking home gardens in the area for any signs of further fruit flies.

“To date there have been no further detections of the fruit fly, although this is early days.
“We have a field laboratory now in place to examine fruit and vegetable matter from the affected area plus any suspect insects that may be caught in traps.”

Mr Coleman says legal restrictions are now in place on the movement of whole fruit and some vegetables out of a defined Controlled Area that is centred on the location of the original find.

“We appreciate that this is very inconvenient for local people, particularly given this operation follows a similar fruit fly find in almost the same location in January. The community showed tremendous goodwill the first time and we are asking them to bear with us and comply with the measures which are designed to prevent any other fruit flies that may be present being spread from the area.”

Andrew Coleman says there are understandably questions being asked about whether this latest find has something to do with the earlier fruit fly detection.

“At this time, all our science-based information tells us this is unlikely. MPI responded in line with international best practice to the former fruit fly find. We had comprehensive, tried and true trapping technology and fruit inspection in place for the recommended two week period and no sign of further flies was found.

“In addition, we kept an additional 37 traps in place following the January incident. These traps are very sensitive and we trust them to locate any fruit flies present. There has been no sign until this week’s detection, leading us to believe this is a new arrival,” he says.

“Of course, people will ask how this new find got into New Zealand. The reality is that at this stage we do not know and any ideas being put forward are pure speculation.

“There are a range of potential pathways (as these entry means are known) including commercial consignments of produce, arriving passengers and arriving recreational yachts. The Ministry has been looking at all of these pathways in some depth since the January fruit fly find and we cannot rule any of them in or out at this time.”

Fruit flies are generally moved as larvae or eggs within fresh fruit and some vegetables.
All produce imports to New Zealand are made under strict biosecurity requirements – generally treatment pre-shipment or with certification from exporting governments that the produce complies with MPI’s rules.

Mr Coleman says all commercial vessel traffic into the Whangarei area enters and receives biosecurity clearance at Marsden Point, well away from Whangarei city. They do not come into the upper Whangarei harbour which is close to the fruit fly find site in Parihaka.

“There are virtually no imports of fruit fly host material through Marsden Point. Cargo imports through Marsden Point are typically bulk liquids, fertilisers and stock feed.

“Arriving yachts into Northland receive biosecurity clearance at either Opua or Marsden Cove and have been inspected and cleared of any fruit or vegetables before moving to the upper harbour.

In the unlikely event that MPI establishes the entry pathway for the Queensland fruit flies found, it will make this information available.

Full information, including regular statistical updates, is at www.mpi.govt.nz – follow the fruit fly button.

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