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Wine industry under real threat - Greens

30 April 2001

attention rural / biosecurity reporter

Wine industry under real threat - Greens

Having just returned from a visit to the decimated vineyards of Southern California Green MP Ian Ewen-Street today said urgent action is required if New Zealand's vineyards are to be saved from a similar fate.

As a Marlborough MP Mr Ewen-Street travelled to California out of concern over the threat that the plant-killing Pierce's Disease poses to viticulture in both his electorate and across the rest of the country.

"Pierce's Disease has wiped out the wine-producing areas of Temecula and the vines are now being burned in huge bonfires. I believe Pierce's disease - which chokes the nutrient supply between the roots and the leaves of the plant - could already be in New Zealand and every effort must be made to identify whether or not this is the case."

Mr Ewen-Street said Pierce's Disease can be hosted by a variety of woody plants and called on MAF to undertake an investigation to determine whether the disease is already here or not.

"If the disease is here - as it is across the Americas - then we need to keep the disease away from any insect vectors which might spread it, such as the New Zealand Spittle Bug," he said.

"Californian vineyards have been decimated by the lethal combination of Pierce's Disease and a highly mobile insect vector - the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter - and we cannot afford the same combination here.

"There are currently a number of pathways for the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter to enter New Zealand - through the leaves of citrus trees or the rinds of lemons and citrus."

Mr Ewen-Street said MAF had temporarily halted the import of grape products from California in light of this threat but said the agency had to be on the look out for all potential vectors from our trading partners - notably Australia and South East Asia.

"New Zealand has so much to lose in terms of our wine industry. This is a real threat which needs to be taken seriously," said Mr Ewen-Street.


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