28 Feb 2018

Ministry lifts 'failed' myrtle rust controls

6:57 am on 28 February 2018

The Ministry for Primary Industries admits measures taken to stop the spread of Myrtle Rust from Taranaki have failed, and so the rules are being lifted.

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Photo: Supplied

Myrtle Rust is a fungal disease that attacks plants such as pōhutukawa, rātā, mānuka, feijoa and others.

It was first found in Northland last May but a significant outbreak in Taranaki less than two weeks later led to a ban on plant movements around Waitara.

Restrictions were imposed eight months ago to stop movement of myrtle plants or green waste Taranaki to prevent the spread of the disease from the worst-affected Waitara area.

It was the only ban of its kind, but eight months later the Ministry has admitted the restriction had not worked.

Myrtle Rust Incident Controller Catherine Duthie said myrtle rust had continued to be detected outside Taranaki despite the movement restrictions.

"Recent weather experienced across much of the country - warm, wet and windy - has been optimal for myrtle rust sporulation, and six regions are now known to be infected," Dr Duthie said.

"The reasons for having a Controlled Area focused on Waitara no longer remain."

She said most detections since July had been found on mature trees in residential properties, increasing the likelihood that myrtle rust spores had been spreading naturally on the wind.

"Unfortunately, restricting movement of myrtle plant matter from one area could not contain the spread of the disease," she said.

Dr Duthie added that the removal of the Controlled Area Notice did not change the status of individual properties that had been placed under control through a Restricted Place Notice.

Those remained in force.

"We encourage people to keep checking their myrtle plants and to immediately contact the Biosecurity Hotline (0800 80 99 66) if they spot any signs of myrtle rust," Dr Duthie said.

The Ministry said that as of 27 February, myrtle rust had affected 313 properties across six regions: Northland (four properties), Auckland (43), Bay of Plenty (80), Waikato (29), Taranaki (149), and Wellington (8).

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