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Weeding out pest plants

Weeding out pest plants

The dastardly Devil’s tail tearthumb keeps company with other notorious pest plants in a weed identification manual being distributed nation wide as part of the National Pest Plant Accord (NPPA).

The New Zealand Pest Plant Manual is the result of close collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Regional Councils, the Department of Conservation, the Nursery and Garden Industry Association, and with the support of the Royal Forest and Bird Society.

The NPPA, which is an agreement between local and national government, aimed at the consistent and coordinated management of pest plants across the country. At this point 13 Regional Councils have signed the Accord.

The Manual outlines a list of nearly 100 national and regional pest plants that are banned from commercial sale or distribution.

Unfortunately the spread of pest plants can be by the inadvertent action of gardeners unaware of their noxious status. To address this, Regional Councils with the endorsement of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association, distributed information and display material to all garden centres, to educate gardeners and inform those participating in the nursery industry on the plants listed in the Accord.

Those Regional Councils that have signed the Accord will actively monitor and inspect plant nurseries, garden retail centres and other commercial outlets where listed plants may be found. Breaches could result in prosecution under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Many deceptively innocuous offenders such as Old man’s beard, Wandering jew, and the common Blackberry can have a devastating impact upon our environment. Huge dense mats of Salvinia, Alligator weed, or Yellow water lily can clog our waterways causing the death of native fish and indigenous aquatic plants.

Keeping new pest plants out of New Zealand and restricting the spread of those already here are critical issues for biosecurity. Awareness is an important form of biosecurity surveillance.

Background: The National Pest Plant Accord

Forest and Bird developed the Forest Friendly Awards in 1993, which evolved into the National Surveillance Plant Pest Initiative in 1995. This was reviewed in 2001 and developed into a consistent National Pest Plant Accord (NPPA).

The aim of the Forest Friendly Awards was to deal with the ongoing problem of environmental weeds being sold and grown as garden plants, and to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of pest plants. Three lists of plants were developed for the northern, central and southern regions of New Zealand, and Awards were given to garden centres that agreed to stop selling the pest plants from the lists

Legal status: National Surveillance Plant Pest Initiative
In 1995 the Forest Friendly Awards were expanded into the National Surveillance Plant Pest Initiative. The National Surveillance list was developed by Regional Councils, Crown Research Institutes, the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Forest and Bird, and was endorsed by the Nursery and Garden Industry Association. It expanded on the Forest Friendly lists to include a wider range of pest plants such as agricultural and aquatic weeds.

The National Surveillance Initiative gave legal status to the ban on sale and distribution of the plants on the list. Regional councils that adopted the list in their Regional Pest Management Strategies made it an offence to knowingly propagate, distribute, spread, sell, offer for sale or display the plants from the list under sections 52 and 53 of the Biosecurity Act. Their Plant Pest Officers worked with and inspected garden centres to ensure compliance.

The National Surveillance Plant Pest Initiative was a step forward in the recognition and control of pest plants. Many Regional Councils adopted the list in their Regional Pest Management Strategies, and some included additional plants that were a problem in their region. However some Regional Councils did not include the list, or left some of the plants off. Furthermore, some Regional Councils did not even have a Regional Pest Management Strategy in place at all (and some still don't).

National consistency: The National Pest Plant Accord
In 2000, The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry coordinated a review of the National Surveillance Plant Pest Initiative. From the review and consultation it was clear that while the National Surveillance Initiative had been successful and was well supported, there were problems with consistency throughout the country. It was decided to address this by developing a National Pest Plant Accord, and declaring the plants on the list to be unwanted organisms under the Biosecurity Act.

Under the Biosecurity Act, unwanted organisms are subject to sections 52 and 53 nation-wide (not just in regions where they are included in the Regional Pest Management Strategy). Regional Councils also have additional powers under Section 100 of the Act to control unwanted organisms without including them on their RPMS. Regional Councils that sign up to the accord agree to undertake surveillance and enforcement and to provide information about the National Accord to members of the public and to businesses. It also gives Regional Councils additional powers, which allows them to take direct action, including removing and destroying plants.

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