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Myrtle rust suspected at third site

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/05/2017

A third Northland site is being investigated for fungal plant disease myrtle rust.

It comes after myrtle rust was found at a Kerikeri nursery and a neighbouring home, while a separate nursery in the town has been cleared of having the disease.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says 100 government staff are working to contain the spread of the disease, having checked all sites within a 500m radius of the original nursery where it was found.

Samples from the third Northland property under investigation are being tested in a laboratory for myrtle rust, while teams are now searching a wider area reaching out from the original nursery.

MPI director response Geoff Gwyn says all properties suspected or confirmed to have been infected are under a restricted place notice.

"This means there are controls on the movement of materials from the sites and people need to take precautions to ensure their clothing and footwear is clean prior to leaving the properties."

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

It 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.

The fungus has been called a hideous disease by conservationists because there is no known method for controlling it in the wild, other than applying fungicide in very small areas.

It is easily spread by wind carrying its spores and no country has been able to eradicate it so far.

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