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NZ at risk from growing fruit fly problem in Australia: Key

NZ at greater risk from growing fruit fly problem in Australia

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 23 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand is facing greater risks from an expanding Queensland fruit fly population across the Tasman, and has contacted major export markets in response to the latest discovery of the pest, says Prime Minister John Key.

Key told his weekly post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington the fruit fly is becoming more prevalent across the Tasman, but he is satisfied with the current efforts of the Ministry for Primary Industries to eradicate the pest. Key said the country's relevant international markets have been informed.

"We're concerned because it presents a risk to the horticultural sector - it's a very important sector in New Zealand," Key said. "We've already contacted all of our export markets at this stage, there's been a pretty muted response internationally."

MPI has found four flies in Auckland's Grey Lynn suburb and is taking urgent action to eradicate the pest. That includes having more than 180 staff working in the field, with 7,500 traps across the country.

That's the fourth time the species of fly has been found in New Zealand's North Island since 2012, and MPI last year reviewed its processes in response to the surge in the fly's population across Australia.

Key said the ministry's profiling at airport border control allowed staff to focus on the greatest risks, and that there were three other avenues for the fly to enter the country.

"We don't actually know how this active group got through," he said. "There's quite a lot of threat through the growing problem in Australia."

In its native Australia, the fly is regarded as a significant threat to horticulture, with major impacts on the nation's ability to trade competitively. Fruit was New Zealand’s fourth biggest export commodity in 2014, according to Statistics New Zealand.

If the species of Queensland fruit fly were to establish here, "it would have serious consequences for New Zealand’s horticultural industry," according to the MPI website.

(BusinessDesk)

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