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Controls on fruit and vegetable movements lifted

Controls on fruit and vegetable movements lifted

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirms that all restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables in Whangarei have been lifted as of this morning Sunday 20 April.

MPI Chief Operations Officer Andrew Coleman says last night marked the milestone, milestone, recognised as international best practice, where two weeks of trapping, fruit sampling and testing were completed.

“We received our final results from trapping and fruit examination last night and I can confirm that our rigorous checks found no further sign of the Queensland fruit fly in the Whangarei area. New Zealand’s fruit fly-free status remains intact. There is no longer any need for residents in the area to be restricted in their movements of produce.”

A fortnight ago the Ministry put in place a 1.5 km diameter Controlled Area around where a single male Queensland fruit fly was found in a surveillance trap in the suburb of Parihaka. Residents were asked not to move whole fresh fruit or vegetables outside of this zone, which took in Parihaka, Riverside and parts of central Whangarei.

The move was precautionary while MPI carried out intensive checks for any further flies. Had a population been found, the controls in place would have prevented any spread of the pest fly out of the area.

“MPI would like to sincerely thank the wider Whangarei community for their fantastic support throughout this operation,” Mr Coleman says. “It is particularly pleasing given residents in virtually the same area were subject to movement controls only months ago in January/February this year for a fruit fly detection then.”

“This community help is vital in these responses. Queensland fruit fly is a major pest of a wide range of crops. Had this pest become established in New Zealand, it would have had serious consequences for our home gardeners, horticultural growers and the wider New Zealand economy.”

Mr Coleman says it is not known how the two flies got into New Zealand but the Ministry is working with the horticultural industries on investigations into potential entry routes, known as pathways. It is still thought that the two flies were separate incidents and not linked.

“Putting this in perspective, over the last 12 months 3.2 million passengers, 20,000 metric tonnes of fresh produce and hundreds of thousands of parcels and postal items have arrived in New Zealand from countries that have breeding populations of this fruit fly. These include Australia, New Caledonia and French Polynesia

“It is a fact of life that from time to time there will be risk items and pests that breach the border. There is no such thing as zero risk when it comes to biosecurity.

“We are, however, concerned that there have been two incidents of this fruit fly arriving in Northland in a short space of time and because of this, we have taken some actions to boost our biosecurity activities at our key international airports, international mail centre and transitional facilities in Auckland and Whangarei,” Mr Coleman says.

Current activities include biosecurity quarantine inspectors increasing their questioning and risk assessment of passengers from risk areas at all international airports; detector dogs being used more, including on cruise ships arriving at Opua, Tauranga and Auckland; and 100 percent dog coverage on high risk mail items at Auckland International Mail Centre.

As planned, the 18 transitional facilities* in Auckland that currently receive potential fruit fly host material will be audited to check that they are running to requirements and to raise awareness of fruit fly.

While there are no fresh produce arrival and holding facilities in Whangarei, all transitional facilities in Whangarei will be visited again as a precautionary measure to check compliance with MPI requirements and to raise awareness of fruit fly.

While the restrictions on produce movements are now lifted and this response is over, this does not signal the end of our continuing work in the area.

“MPI will increase the number of its routine fruit fly surveillance programme traps in Northland from the current 141.”

Should local residents find anything of concern, particularly insects or larvae in fruit, they should contact MPI’s Pests and Diseases Hotline – 0800 80 99 66.

* Definition of a transitional facility: Transitional facilities and containment facilities are approved to hold and manage imported risk goods that are brought into New Zealand. Transitional facilities are generally for imported goods such as food products, things made from wood or plant material, sea containers, used machinery or vehicles, and other products that might have some associated biosecurity risk. These goods may undergo an inspection or treatment of some kind at the transitional facility before they can be “cleared” by MPI.

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