Myrtle rust has continued its spread through parts of New Zealand during the Summer and the number of infected sites had reached 249 by the first week of February.
As a result, the Ministry for Primary Industries has begun to change its response from attempted eradication to long-term management.
The NZ Plant Producers industry organisation says in regions where levels of infection are high and new infections are frequent, MPI is assessing properties with infected myrtles on a case-by-case basis and, where appropriate, some property owners are being given responsibility for making decisions and managing their infected trees themselves. MPI is continuing to support them with information and advice, and, if needed, secure collection of potentially contaminated green waste.
Confirmed infected sites have been found in Northland (4), Auckland (36), Bay of Plenty (60), Waikato (29), Taranaki (112), Wellington (8). Most of the recent finds have been in Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Waikato. Four out of five have been on private properties and smaller proportions on commercial properties, plant nurseries, public land, and schools. No signs of myrtle rust have been found in the South Island, where the upper and western areas have been checked.
The NZPPI says “it is too early to know exactly what will happen and how the disease might affect New Zealand. So far, the fungus appears to behave differently from region to region, and even plant to plant.”
– Des Snell