National’s Myrtle Rust inaction risks Manuka, Pohutukawa, Rata and other icons

Five years after Scion warned the government to prepare for Myrtle Rust, a mortal threat to New Zealand natives, apiculture and horticulture, its arrival in Raoul Island means it is a matter of when, not if, it arrives in New Zealand.

“Given how close Raoul Island is to Northland, let alone the prevailing winds, NZ First predicts Myrtle Rust will be found in Northland by the end of winter, if it is not already here,” says the Rt Hon Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First and Member of Parliament for Northland.

“Be under no illusion this is serious culturally and economically because since Myrtle Rust arrived in Australia, they are now talking local extinction along with the animals which depend upon those plants and trees.

“Manuka, Pohutukawa, Rata and Kanuka are all at risk and with it iconic New Zealand plants that have provided a boon for exporters like Manuka Honey.  Then there is the serious risk to production horticulture of feijoa and guava as well as eucalypts.

“Five years after being warned the government has done precious little.  Now the spores of this devastating fungal disease are barely 1,000 kilometres from Northland and could well be here already.

“What we know is that plants that have evolved without exposure to this fungal disease are most likely to be highly susceptible.  That’s the experience from the Islands and from Australia and it could well push iconic species to the brink of extinction.

“It is really that bad.

“Our information is that the government has ignored recommendations then refused and cut funding to defensive measures.  Now the chickens are coming home to roost and there hasn’t even been a peep from Ministers Guy, Barry or let alone the Prime Minister,” Mr Peters asked.