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Greens call for ban after another Black Widow

14 September 2001

Greens call for ban again after another Black Widow

The biosecurity risks associated with importing Californian grapes are simply too high and the imports must be banned immediately said Green Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street.

Mr Ewen-Street was commenting after the second live Black Widow spider in three weeks was found in a bag of Californian table grapes purchased from a Kaitaia supermarket.

"The Government beefed up the biosecurity rules for Californian grapes only two months ago, and already two live, poisonous black widows have slipped through. The new regulations have not worked and we now must ban these imports," he said.

Mr Ewen-Street said the luxury of having grapes out of season was not worth the risks to New Zealanders' health and to the nations wine industry. "What really concerns me is the thought that the glassy-winged sharp-shooter - a pest which has devastated the Californian wine industry - is much less likely to be spotted, and therefore much more likely to get established here. "As I said three weeks ago, if a black widow spider can get in, what's to stop a glassy-winged sharp-shooter getting in too? The implications for our wine industry if this happened could be devastating," he said. "I've seen first-hand bulldozers ripping up dead vines in California," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"The disease the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter spreads - Pierces Disease - is the grape equivalent of foot and mouth. We are taking a huge risk by allowing these grapes to continue pouring in here.

"We stringently banned all sheep and cattle products from our shores during the foot and mouth epidemic. Our wine industry is a valuable and growing part of our export market.

"Let's give it the same respect and protection that we give our farmers, and ban the import of Californian grapes and other fruit from California such as citrus and watermelons in which the Sharpshooter lays its eggs," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"We have already been shown in no uncertain terms that the biosecurity systems in place are not adequate. We are placing our wine industry and our economy at risk if we permit this to go on."

ENDS


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