Horizons assisting with myrtle rust search

Horizons Regional Council’s biosecurity staff are assisting the MPI as the search for myrtle rust continues.

Myrtle rust was first detected in New Zealand in a Northland nursery in May and is believed to have arrived via spores from Australia. Severe infestations can kill affected plants in the myrtle family, such as pōhutukawa and mānuka, and have long-term impacts on the regeneration of young plants and seedlings.
Nationally there have been 34 confirmed cases, which include private properties, nurseries, a golf course and an orchard. While most infections are on seedlings, some more recent detections were in established pōhutukawa.
Horizons biodiversity, biosecurity, and partnerships manager, Rod Smillie, says while Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge had an initial scare of myrtle rust a few weeks ago, the area has since been declared ok.
“In fact, the whole Manawatu-Whanganui Region has no known cases,” says Mr Smillie. “However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t being vigilant.”
“In addition to assessing upcoming riparian plantings for the disease, three of our biosecurity team have been in Taranaki where 29 confirmed cases have been found.
Led by MPI, the biosecurity capability network (of which Horizons is a partner) have set up a local coordination centre in Taranaki.
Mr Smillie says Horizons staff have been there since Sunday and will finish on Saturday night, although we can expect further rosters in the near future.

“The process requires suiting up and checking every leaf before decontaminating themselves to ensure no potential spores are transferred when they move onto the next property.

“Should a plant potentially have the disease, it is double bagged and sent to Auckland for testing. With numerous plant species susceptible to myrtle rust, it is a very thorough operation. 

The MPI Response Team has established a Welfare Team to assist people and businesses applying for financial compensation for losses incurred as a result of actions taken under the Biosecurity Act.
Members of the public have been asked to check their own gardens and planting areas for Myrtle Rust and to report any suspicious detections to MPI on 0800 80 99 66.
“Myrtle rust generally attacks soft, new growth, including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers, and fruit. Symptoms to look for include bright yellow powdery spots on both sides of leaves.
Information on myrtle rust can found at www.mpi.govt.nz.