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Myrtle rust locations up to 17

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017
© @MPI_NZ / Twitter

The number of locations infected with myrtle rust has risen to 17, it was confirmed on Wednesday, and the Ministry for Primary Industries says 125 DoC staff are now working on the problem.

The fungal plant disease was first found at a Kerikeri nursery in early May and then in Taranaki.

MPI is working to contain the outbreaks and say there have been more than 450 reports by Wednesday afternoon.

A new case has been confirmed at a private garden in Kaikohe, found on plants that had been purchased from a nursery where myrtle rust has been detected.

Of the 17 confirmed locations, the majority are in Taranaki, including nurseries or retailers, distributors, an orchard and four private gardens.

To date the rust has been found on pohutukawa, lophomyrtus, gum trees and a single instance of manuka. It has not been observed on feijoa as yet.

MPI myrtle rust response director Geoff Gwyn says working closely with the Department of Conservation has been crucial.

"This is the largest deployment of staff in DoC's history, with some 125 people dedicated to the response," he said.

"It's important all New Zealanders in every part of the country look for signs of myrtle rust, including in the South Island."

There is no known method for controlling it in the wild, other than applying fungicide in very small areas.

MPI says it was likely the fungal spores entered New Zealand from Australia during a major wind event.

There are restrictions on the movement of plants or other risky materials off the infected sites.

They are being treated with fungicide, plants at risk are being destroyed, and surrounding properties are being checked.

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