The fungus has been found on two properties in the Otorohanga township – in both cases on a single ramarama tree. These finds are new positive detections of myrtle rust outside of the known established areas in Taranaki and Te Puke.
The ministry’s myrtle rust response incident controller, Dr Catherine Duthie, says the two properties have no connection with nurseries or other infected properties in Taranaki. It would appear these are infections that have occurred by wind dispersal from Australia, like the infections in other regions.
“We located these infected plants through our ongoing checks of areas that we’d identified as at-risk due to prevailing wind direction, the presence of host species and climate.
“Along with the Department of Conservation, we’ve been carrying out surveillance for the disease throughout the winter, even though myrtle rust is generally inactive in colder weather and the symptoms are less obvious.
“We had known that a reappearance of obvious myrtle rust symptoms was likely in spring – so while this is disappointing, it’s not unexpected,” Dr Duthie says.
The two properties are being placed under legal restrictions to stop any movement of plant material off the sites. MPI will remove and destroy the two affected plants within the next few days.
Teams will then be in the area checking all myrtle plants in a 500 metre radius from the two finds. This could take up to a fortnight.
MPI is continuing to encourage people to check myrtle species plants – for example, pohutukawa, ramarama, mānuka, feijoa, and bottlebrush.