Introduction

DOC today confirmed myrtle rust has been found on public conservation land.

Date:  28 February 2018

It was discovered on a ramarama plant, to the side of the Kiwi Road Track on Mt Messenger, in north Taranaki. This is the first find in a large tract of native bush.

DOC is closing the affected area, and is working with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), local iwi and stakeholders to confirm the best approach to respond to this latest finding.

"We’re still investigating the extent of the outbreak and exploring options to contain any risk of spread,” says Phil Hancock, who is leading DOC’s response.

Since it was first discovered on mainland New Zealand in May 2017, myrtle rust has become widespread in urban areas of Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and parts of Auckland. However, infestations in Northland and Wellington have been limited.

The finding follows extensive surveillance and eradication activities, led by MPI and supported by DOC.

“We’ve been taking an active approach to respond to the myrtle rust threat on public conservation land,” says Phil.  

“Our field staff have been focusing on surveillance operations on public conservation land in high risk areas, mainly in the North Island and upper South Island.

“We’ve also been working with local iwi to secure the long-term future of taonga species, through the collection and banking of seed,” says Phil. 

The recent warm weather has been optimal for myrtle rust and, with the yellow powdery spots appearing on leaves and new plant shoots, new detections have increased in some areas.

People are encouraged to check myrtle species plants – particularly ramarama, pōhutukawa, lilly pilly, mānuka and rātā.

If you believe you’ve seen the disease, don’t touch it as this will spread the disease, take photos if possible, note the location and contact the MPI biosecurity hotline immediately on 0800 80 99 66.

MPI will continue to keep the public updated about our progress in managing the threat of myrtle rust. 

Myrtle rust information on MPI website.

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 is also likely to affect commercial activities (eg mānuka honey industry), tourism, recreation and landscape values.
  • Extensive surveillance activities, led by MPI, are underway and DOC field staff are supporting this surveillance of Myrtaceae. We’re focusing on public conservation land in parts of the country where myrtle rust is most likely to be present, from Te Paki in the very Far North, to Golden Bay in the South Island, and Great Barrier Island.
  • Working with local iwi, DOC staff are undertaking a third tranche of seed collection in impacted areas.
  • The DOC Technical Advisory Group is also extensively involved in the set-up of research tools and longer-term monitoring regimes.
  • Myrtle rust has been confirmed in 304 sites in mainland New Zealand (as at 23 February 2018):
    • 4 in Northland (now eradicated)
    • 29 in Waikato (Te Kuiti – now eradicated; Otorohanga)
    • 77 Bay of Plenty
    • 144 Taranaki
    • 42 Auckland
    • 8 Wellington

Contact

For media enquiries contact: 

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

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