Introduction

DOC is putting immediate restrictions on all beehive movements on public conservation land in a bid to contain the spread of the fungal disease myrtle rust.

Date:  09 October 2018

DOC is putting immediate restrictions on all beehive movements on Public Conservation Land (PCL) in a bid to contain the spread of the fungal disease myrtle rust.

The decision comes after research from Plant and Food indicates bees may be a vector for the spread of myrtle rust, which can damage and kill some plants in the myrtle family.

DOC’s Director for Permissions Planning and Land, Marie Long, says DOC is concerned about the potential for honeybees to spread myrtle rust to unaffected areas of conservation land, so has restricted the movement of beehives.

“Myrtle rust is a threat to plants such as mānuka, kānuka, rātā and pōhutukawa. These plants are vital for healthy ecosystems, but also the beekeeping industry.”

Beehive concessionaires have been informed that: 

  • Beehives cannot be moved from the North Island and placed on PCL sites in the South Island.
  • Beehives cannot be moved from the Operational Districts of New Plymouth, King Country, Waikato, Hauraki, Tauranga and Auckland and placed on PCL sites in the Operational Region of Northern North Island.
  • Beehives cannot be moved from the Operational Districts of Golden Bay, Motueka, Sounds and Marlborough South and placed on PCL sites in other Operational Districts in the North Island or South Island.
  • Beehives cannot be moved from outside the Te Paki Ecological District and placed on PCL sites in the Te Paki Ecological District.

DOC is also advocating for more research into myrtle rust and bees to increase the knowledge around the role honeybees play in transferring the fungal disease.

“DOC is responsible for the protection of New Zealand’s unique environment, so we have a duty to respond to an issue that could significantly harm our native myrtle species,” Marie Long says.

We will be reviewing the beehive restrictions annually to measure their effectiveness in preventing the spread of myrtle rust.”

The decision was made by DOC after seeking information on beehive movement from beekeepers who have concessions to keep beehives on PCL.

Background

The fungal plant disease myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) was discovered on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group of islands in April 2017. It was later confirmed on mainland New Zealand - at a Kerikeri plant nursery on 3 May and at Waitara, Taranaki, on 17 May 2017. 

Myrtle rust threatens the Myrtaceae plant family, including some of our most iconic indigenous plants - pōhutukawa, rātā, mānuka, kānuka, and ramarama, as well as exotic myrtles like guava and eucalypts. 

If it becomes widespread it will impact all of New Zealand's Myrtaceae to some degree and we’re likely to lose some Myrtaceae in their natural state and forests will be forever changed in places where myrtles are a dominant species. It could also affect commercial activities (e.g. mānuka honey industry), tourism, recreation and landscape values.

Biosecurity NZ is the lead agency for advice on myrtle rust.

DOC is focusing its work on understanding the spread and potential impacts on public conservation land and natural ecosystems. Working with local iwi, DOC staff are undertaking a fourth round of seed collection in impacted areas.

Contact

For media enquiries contact: 

Phone: +64 4 496 1911
Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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