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Myrtle rust appears in Taranaki

Myrtle rust appears in Taranaki

Date: 17 May 2017

Testing by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today revealed myrtle rust infection at a plant nursery in Taranaki.

The nursery in Waitara (just north of New Plymouth) reported suspected myrtle rust symptoms on young plants to the Ministry’s 0800 number yesterday (Tuesday).

An investigator travelled to New Plymouth immediately to collect samples and the positive test results were confirmed late this morning.

MPI’s Myrtle Rust Response Incident Controller David Yard says that, as with the nursery in Kerikeri, movement controls have been placed on the Taranaki property. [Note: Kerikeri was the first location in mainland New Zealand where the rust was confirmed].

"There are no movements of plants or other risk materials off the site. We are now preparing to treat the location with fungicide and will begin the job of inspecting the area out to 500m from the infection site."

MPI thanks the Taranaki nursery owner for being vigilant and reporting the suspect symptoms to the 0800 number.

"The earlier we locate a new infection, the greater the chance of doing something about it. As with Kerikeri, we’ll be throwing everything at it to attempt to control it, but we are realistic that it is a huge challenge, given how readily the spores spread by the wind.

Mr Yard says finding myrtle rust in a new region could be the sign that we will need to learn to live with this fungal plant disease. Myrtle rust infects plants in the myrtle family including pōhutukawa, rātā, and mānuka as well as some production species including feijoa and eucalypts.

"However, at this point in time MPI is focussed on containing the disease in the Waitara and Kerikeri sites," Mr Yard said. "We continue to apply all necessary resource to this approach."

There are 2 main reasons why the rust has been seen first in nurseries. Growing conditions there are ideal for the fungus with many vulnerable young plants in sheltered, warm and damp environments. In addition, there has been a large amount of communication with the nursery industry and growers have been particularly vigilant in checking their plants.

"While we are unlikely to ever know exactly how myrtle rust arrived in New Zealand, the most likely entry route remains being carried here on the wind from Australia where the infection is widespread," Mr Yard says.

The Ministry will once again partner with the Department of Conservation, local iwi, local authorities and the plant production industries in on-the-ground management.

Members of the public who believe they have seen signs of myrtle rust are advised:

• do not touch it or the plant

• take a photo of the rust and the plant

• call MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

What you need to know about myrtle rust


Earlier releases


Kerikeri myrtle rust response – media update 15 May 2017

Date: 15 May 2017

There are no significant developments to report in the response to the detection of the plant disease myrtle rust in Kerikeri.

MPI, with the support of DOC, iwi, industry groups and the Northland Regional Council, is today starting to re-inspect the area in a radius 500m from the nursery where the fungus was first found.

There are still just two properties where myrtle rust has been confirmed – the initial nursery and a neighbouring private residential garden. Samples from all suspect reports have been tested and found to be negative for myrtle rust.

The public message remains – if you believe you have seen signs of myrtle rust:

• do not touch it or the plant

• take a photo of the rust and the plant

• call MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

What you need to know about myrtle rust


Plant nurseries under legal controls to help contain spread of myrtle rust

Date: 12 May 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today placed legal controls on plant nurseries associated with the current myrtle rust situation, requiring them to continue to follow approved hygiene measures to manage any risk of spreading the fungal plant disease.

The controls, set out in a Notice of Direction under the Biosecurity Act, make it mandatory for all plant producers and retailers in the Kerikeri area, and those businesses around New Zealand that have received high-risk (myrtle species) plants from the affected Kerikeri Plant Production, to follow MPI-approved management protocols. This will apply to around 45 nurseries nationwide although this number may well change as tracing activities continue.

MPI's Director Response, Geoff Gwyn, says nurseries have already given huge support to the response by following the protocols voluntarily since the third day of the operation.

"I would like to thank New Zealand Plant Producers Inc. for the development of the approved protocols. This should not require a significant change in the way the nurseries do business. It will, however, give them long term certainty about how to effectively manage any risk associated with their business. Importantly, it will enable them to continue business and lessen the impacts on the local economy."

NZPPI Independent Chair, Andrew Harrison, says in short, the notice requires that plant producers and retailers follow hygiene, containment, and management protocols which increase the chances of early detection and lower the possibility of any further spread of myrtle rust.

"Myrtle rust has been a call to arms for our industry, with strong uptake of the protocols we put in place early on. Early reporting by plant producers has been rapidly followed up by MPI and those reporting have done exactly the right thing.

"One of the key aspects of the protocols is to make sure any suspicious symptoms are reported to MPI and plants are physically isolated until MPI arrives. Our members are on the frontline of this response.

"NZPPI is in full support of the Ministry's approach, and we are working with affected plant producers and the Ministry to ensure the direction is effectively implemented," Mr Harrison says.

The situation in the myrtle rust response remains unchanged - there are still just 2 known infected properties. The initial nursery in Kerikeri where the myrtle rust incursion was first detected and a neighbouring residential garden.

All other suspected finds that have been sampled have tested negative for myrtle rust.

"This does not mean there is room for complacency," Mr Gwyn says. "We are still in full response to this situation and working to locate any other potential areas of infection out there."

Surveillance activities continue in Northland with MPI and a range of partners including DOC, Northland Regional Council, iwi and growers checking high risk sites for any sign of myrtle rust. MPI is talking with iwi on a regular basis and an individual from the local hapu is being trained and embedded in the surveillance team.

The public message remains - if you believe you have seen signs of myrtle rust - do not touch it or the plant - take a photo of the rust and the plant. Call the MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

What you need to know about myrtle rust

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