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Waitakere Intervention "Unavoidable"

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Waitakere City Council have agreed the minister should step in as a solution to enable the eradication of the Painted Apple Moth, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said that meant that he would intervene by exempting the moth eradication from the Resource Management Act. The eradication programme will not have to comply with the Waitakere City Council's district plan, which includes a prohibition against low flying.

He emphasised that he was not declaring an emergency.

"Everybody agrees that this pest, the Painted Apple Moth, should be eradicated. To do that, repeated aerial spraying must undertaken."

Mr Sutton said he was unhappy that spraying was not already underway.

"It has not been possible to go ahead with eradication till the delimiting survey was completed, and I understand why that took so long. But once it was completed, I was disappointed that there are operational delays, and now I am forced to intervene.

"I'm not blaming the Waitakere City Council for these delays.

Mr Sutton said the Waitakere forest ranges were an important resource for Auckland and for the whole country. If not eradicated, the Painted Apple Moth would find its way into that forest and could devastate it.

"I'm not prepared to let that happen, and that's why the eradication programme must be exempted from the Resource Management Act."

Mr Sutton said the technical advisory group on the incursion, which met on Monday, felt that targeted spraying was still the best option. If targeted spraying is not successful, the option of blanket spraying would remain.

"The group did have concerns about finds of larvae in some areas, and has recommended an increase of the area to be sprayed. This is within the option approved by Cabinet."

The group also had concerns about moth catches in the vicinity of Oratia and Scenic Drive in Titirangi. In these areas, property-by-property surveys have been undertaken but no caterpillars have been found. Additional traps are to be placed.

Mr Sutton said it was important that the eradication happened as soon as possible.

At this time, it seems likely that spraying will commence after January 14, 2002.


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