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Myrtle rust confirmed at second site

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/05/2017

A second Northland site has been confirmed as being infected by the fungal plant disease myrtle rust.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says the location is a private residential property and is a close neighbour of the original infected nursery.

MPI director response Geoff Gwyn says having a second positive site is not unexpected, given the ability for myrtle rust to spread as invisible spores on the wind.

He says there will be conditions placed on the property to prevent further spread and the affected plants there will be treated.

Earlier on Monday, MPI said another nursery in the town was under suspicion of having myrtle rust, but laboratory tests on samples had proved negative.

The ministry is now arranging re-testing of further samples, given the fact that the symptoms appear like myrtle rust and are on highly susceptible plants.

It says false negative results can sometimes occur in testing.

Prime Minister Bill English says no limit has been put on the amount MPI can spend on its search and destroy mission against myrtle rust.

The cabinet was updated on the situation at its meeting on Monday.

"There's no constraint on how much it's going to cost," Mr English said.

"They want to take as much action as they can to contain it and we're not going to limit their efforts because of funding concerns."

Myrtle rust attacks trees that included natives like pohutukawa and rata, and there's concern it could have a serious impact on the honey industry if it gets into manuka trees.

A team of 70 people have been on the ground in Kerikeri since the weekend.

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