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Australian gum leaf skeletoniser response

Australian gum leaf skeletoniser response enters busy week

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is taking the advice of the consultative group it convened in Auckland just over two weeks ago and will “keep its options open” before deciding whether the gum leaf skeletoniser (Uraba lugens) can be eradicated or not.

“Since we received the surveillance report showing this unwanted pest was being detected on eucalypt trees over a wide area of southern Auckland we have initiated a whole suite of work, both operational and scientific, to ensure we can keep on top of this pest,” said Peter Thomson, MAF’s Director of Forest Biosecurity.

“We have retained eradication as a possible goal. Is eradication feasible? We don’t know that yet. Is it affordable? We don’t know that yet either. The pest has spread over a large area. We can’t mount a major eradication campaign lightly. During this time of year, when the moth is less active, we need to be getting our response on to a firm footing.”

“The planning phase of a biosecurity response is of the utmost importance – we need to take the time to gather an adequate amount of information to base our decision making on.

“Impact assessments take time, we need a few months to complete host testing on native tree species and we have to get more information from the science team to determine likely rate of spread. Having said that we are also going to do everything we possibly can ‘on the ground’ to ensure that we don’t lose the prospect of getting rid of the gum leaf skeletoniser. Right now, our aim is to contain it to its current location.”

“No new sites have been reported since 7 March, which is good news. Ground spraying of outlying infested trees in public places has been completed.”

“This week will be our busiest yet. A further delimiting survey out to 100km is scheduled to be completed, more intensive host tree identification within South Auckland will commence, an interim operational headquarters is being established and field testing of a new pheromone for an extensive trapping grid will continue.

A meeting with staff from Auckland councils is also scheduled for this week. “We’ll be talking with them about future ground spraying and removal of problem trees, and establishing a collaborative course of action for the late autumn, winter months and early spring months when the next generation of caterpillars will be active,” said Mr Thomson.

“MAF appreciates the support it is getting from councils and the opportunity this presents for keeping Aucklanders informed of the progress we are making in partnership with councils.

“While it will take time to answer all the questions we have, it is fair to say that we have made some significant and encouraging progress towards containing the gum leaf skeletoniser”.

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