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Forest and Conservation Groups Support Spraying

Forest and Conservation Groups Support Spray Programme.

Foresters and conservationists have joined forces to express support for the painted apple moth eradication programme in West Auckland. The NZ Farm Forestry Assn., NZ Forest Owners' Assn and Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand are very concerned by possible legal moves to halt the aerial spraying of this potentially very serious insect pest.

"This support is in recognition of the effectiveness of the programme, and serious concern about the damage that painted apple moth could do to New Zealand's natural heritage and planted forests," Forest Owners Association spokesperson Rob Mclagan stated.

Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer Geoff Keey noted that moth numbers have been reduced dramatically in the sprayed areas, "The programme is finally working. Now would be the worst time to give up. Painted apple moth eats a large range of native trees. It would be like letting loose the insect equivalent of the possum," he said.

Painted apple moth is a common pest of gardens and orchards in Australia as well as having the ability to defoliate young pine trees and other commercial plantation species. Painted apple moth eats a wide range of native trees including kowhai, kauri and southern beech species.

Painted apple moth has much in common with the possum, another Australian pest that is also costing us more than $30 million a year. In the case of the possum, this expenditure is not for eventual eradication, but just for inadequate containment. We wonder how many New Zealanders really want to let another such pest establish itself in this country.

It has been estimated that the economic cost to New Zealand of Painted Apple Moth if not eradicated could be up to around $350 million.

Every day lost in not proceeding with the spray programme - either because of weather conditions or the impact of a possible legal challenge - makes the prospect of eradication that much more difficult and expensive.

Denis Hocking from the Farm Forestry Association stated he had confidence in the vetting carried out by the Health Ministry and the health programme put in place by MAF. Contrary to many of the claims, the detailed chemical formulation has been sent to Ministry of Health, ERMA, MAF and Ministry for the Environment and assessed by their experts.

The conservation and forestry groups agree it would be very desirable for the full formulation to be public information,

The painted apple moth caterpillar, like many species in the lymantriid families, does have quite irritating hairs that can cause skin and respiratory problems.

"The short term irritation caused by the spraying needs to be balanced against the long term effects on human health and the environment if this pest becomes established," Forest and Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey said.

"Consider the price future generations might have to pay if we let this pest go."

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