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Tropical Worm Threatening Northland Farms

Wednesday 7th Jul 1999
Muriel Newman
Media Release -- Environment

ACT Whangarei-based MP Dr Muriel Newman today said Northland farmers are becoming increasingly concerned at the spread of grass-eating worm that has made its way onto Northland farms from Australia.

Dr Newman said the tropical grass webworm is widespread on farms North of the Bay of Islands but indications are that it is moving south.

"Farmers are worried that there is no eradication strategy in place to kill the worm, which feeds predominately on Kikuyu grass, essential to Northland farms. The webworm also feeds on over 20 species of grass.

"One farmer in Houhoura reports that in two days the bug devastated over 10 acres of pasture.

"In response to calls from farmers about their plight, I wrote to the Minister of Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control to ask him what the Government was doing to address the problem. His response was that because of the worm's natural arrival in the country and its extensive distribution, particularly around the Pukenui area, MAF has no plans to eradicate it.

"The Minister goes on to say that AgResearch entomologists will undertake a research project of the tropical grass webworm in Northland. But, while the scientists are watching the worms' farmers will be watching their pasture disappear.

"For a region already struggling, and it's life support industry under threat, the Government must move to help the farmers of Northland protect their hard work and their livelihoods.

"The worms progress south has been slowed by the cooler winter weather but, farmers are bracing themselves for more serious outbreaks in the spring. They are worried that the early spring growth of Kikuyu that they rely on to fatten calves and lambs will this season be destroyed by the tropical grass webworm

"The most sensible approach is for the Government to work with the Regional Council to put in place a pest management strategy that will work on the elimination of the worm before it devastates more Northland farms," said Muriel Newman.


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