NZ First Casts Doubt On Myrtle Rust Incursion Theory

New Zealand  First says the Government was far too quick to determine that a mortal threat to New Zealand native trees, manuka honey and parts of our horticultural industry from myrtle rust was airborne from Australia.

“When a staff member in my office was first briefed he asked if it had spread south from New Caledonia but was categorically told it was from Australia,” says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“That sets off alarm bells when no DNA analysis could have been done to establish that as incontrovertible fact.  No DNA analysis will tell you how it got onto nurseries in Kerikeri.

“This ‘it’s windborne from Australia’ line might fool some in the media, but it is at odds with briefings done by the Crown Research Institute Scion in 2010, and by the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Biosecurity Risk Analysis Group in 2011.

“Scion suggested three more likely entry pathways could be the clothing or footwear of tourists; imported infected plant material; or deliberate introduction. It added ‘the probability of urediniospore survival would be lower following a slow sea voyage under ambient conditions compared with rapid air travel in an air conditioned aircraft’. 

“Then you have the risk assessment on myrtle rust done by MAF/MPI, which rated imported plant material as a moderate to high risk pathway.

”Was there a stuff-up? The work done by Scion and MAF/MPI indicates that while windborne remains a possibility, there are other more probable ways for how it got here.  This government’s assumption as absolute fact is not how any investigation should start.

“It seems incredible that spores carried across the Tasman would avoid the entire West Coast and thousands of hectares of suitable host plants to magically land, not just in Kerikeri on the East Coast, but by the most fantastical of odds, a nursery,” says Mr Peters.