10 May 2017

MPI tests another Northland property for myrtle rust

6:34 am on 10 May 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries is sampling and testing another property in Northland after suspicions it might have myrtle rust.

Myrtle rust can threaten plants including pohutukawa, manuka and feijoa trees.

Myrtle rust can threaten plants including pohutukawa, manuka and feijoa trees. Photo: Supplied

A biosecurity response team from the ministry has been in Kerikeri since myrtle rust was found at the Kerikeri Plant Production nursery last week, and a second case found in a garden on the same street yesterday, was confirmed this morning.

The ministry's Geoff Gwyn said staff had finished their checks on the properties within a 500 metre radius of the affected nursery but would now widen their checks.

He said another property on the same road as the two infected sites was now being tested.

A second nursery, which initially tested negative for the disease, has come back with negative test results.

Mr Gwyn said they were confident there was no risk there now.

He said they were receiving more than 100 phone calls and 150 emails each day about myrtle rust which gave them a good chance to identify whether the disease had spread.

The ministry's regional controller for the outbreak, Mark Bateman, said because it was an air-borne fungi the reality was that it might have spread.

"Unfortunately we can't do anything to stop a wind blown infection.

"Northland at this stage would suggest that that is the likely hot spot, but it could be anywhere in the country simply because plants have travelled and simply because this is a wind carried virus that might actually be making its way across the country."

Iwi and beekeepers 'in the dark' over myrtle rust

Beekeepers and iwi in Northland say they're being kept in the dark over myrtle rust, which they warn could devastate the region's honey industry.

The air-borne disease is a potential threat to native plants including mānuka and pōhutukawa, and it's got the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust worried.

The trust owns four horticultural orchards in the area, and has substantial interests in two forest leases.

Chair Pita Tipene said the trust had not been directly informed about the threat, and had had to rely on second-hand information.

"This is a huge threat to our assets ... we are really worried, certainly MPI is not talking to us about this," he said.

Mr Tipene said that was not good enough, especially given the risk the fungus posed to one of the region's rapidly growing industries.

Kerry Fountain - a beekeeper with about 300 hives in the region - mainly sells mānuka, pōhutukawa and northern rātā honey products.

He also felt he was not been kept in the loop by the authorities.

"It would be nice to know a bit more information about it. It would be nice to know how fast ... the spores on myrtle rust actually affects these trees and how quick it is," he said.

But the Ministry for Primary Industries said it was surprised by those comments as it was doing all it could to inform people about the situation.

It had also been dropping flyers with information about myrtle rust at supermarkets and shopping areas in Kerikeri, the ministry said.

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