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Devastating moth pest detained at border

Devastating moth pest detained at border

A potentially devastating incursion of the Gypsy moth has been averted with the discovery of two moth egg masses on an imported vehicle at the Port of Nelson.

MAF Quarantine Officers inspecting the four wheel drive vehicle, which had been unloaded from a vessel from Japan, found the suspected Gypsy moth egg masses on the spare tyre mounted on the back of the vehicle.

Nelson Quarantine Officer Jaimie Baird says the large and healthy looking egg masses were discovered on internal inspection of the vehicle, which included removal of the spare tyre.

“The vehicle has now been put up on a ramp and thoroughly inspected, both inside and underneath the chassis,” Jaimie Baird says. “It has also been steam cleaned as a precaution to ensure no viable eggs remain.”

The egg masses themselves will be sent to a laboratory for final identification, although the Quarantine Officers who made the discovery believe they are Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar).

The four wheel drive was one of around 40 vehicles unloaded from the car carrier Violet Ace. Jaimie Baird says three quarters of those vehicles required extra cleaning, although no further egg masses were found.

MAF’s Director of Forest Biosecurity Peter Thomson says it’s impossible to underestimate the significance of this find. “Gypsy moth is one of this country’s most-feared moth pests. Earlier this year MAF ran a campaign to eradicate it in Hamilton following the discovery of a single male moth there last year. It’s suited to cool climates and is a voracious consumer of conifers. Its impact on South Island forests could have been devastating,” Peter Thomson says.

Forestry is of major importance to the Nelson-Tasman region, which has an estimated 100,000 hectares in plantation forest - about 86 percent in radiata pine, with douglas fir making up most of the remainder.

This represents 11 percent of Nelson's total land area and 5.5 percent of New Zealand's total plantation forests. Nelson's forest harvest has risen from one million cubic metres in 1998 to 1.57 million cubic metres in 2003. Forestry and wood processing is one of the key sectors of the Nelson-Tasman economy, along with seafood, tourism and farming.

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