23 Jan 2014

Queensland pest found in Whangarei

10:01 pm on 23 January 2014

Taking fruit and some vegetables out of parts of Whangarei has been banned for at least two weeks following the discovery of a serious insect pest.

The Ministry for Primary Industries ban covers parts of the Town Basin in the central city after a Queensland fruit fly was found. The male fly was discovered in a surveillance trap near the Town Basin on Tuesday and formally identified the following day.

An Australian fruit fly laying eggs on fruit.

An Australian fruit fly laying eggs on fruit. Photo: PHOTO NZ

It is the fourth time a Queensland fruit fly has been found in New Zealand. The insect is one of the biggest threats to the $4 billion fruit and vegetable export industry. Overseas trade partners have been told of the discovery.

The ministry says this particular fruit fly is one of the most damaging pests as it infests more than 100 species of fruit and it is vital to know if any more are in the area.

Deputy director general Andrew Coleman said a large number of traps will be placed in properties within 200 metres of the find to see whether any more insects are present. Further traps will be laid as far as 1.5km from where the fruit fly was discovered.

People in the zones are being asked to not compost any fruit and vegetables and special disposal bins are being put in place.

The discovery of a male Queensland fruit fly in Auckland on 8 May 2012 sparked a massive response which cost up to $2 million. The previous discoveries were in Whangarei in 1995 and Auckland in 1996.

Andrew Coleman told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Thursday there will be costs this time around also.

"It's a normal biosecurity response. We've got a number of staff and other agencies working with us that does bear some cost, but biosecurity responses is our business and we're funded appropriately for that."

Growers concerned

Kerikeri fruit grower representative Rick Curtis says growers are alarmed over the find and want to know how the fly got in.

"We've just had a PSA outbreak up here in Kerikeri in our kiwifruit in the last couple of months and we don't need any more problems.

"Any fruit fly find is concerning, but it's close to us. It's a bottleneck as far as transport goes - we've got fresh produce going out of Northland all the time, heading for both southern domestic markets and for export. We've got kiwifruit, citrus, avocados and a lot of vegetables, so it's of real concern."

Labour's primary industry spokesperson Damien O'Connor is calling for a halt on the importation of fruit until the Ministry for Primary Industries works out how it got into the country and systems are double-checked.

Mr O'Connor says the fruit fly is the equivalent of foot and mouth disease to the dairy industry and New Zealand can't afford for it to get established.