Winter campaign to raise awareness of brown marmorated stink bug

Biosecurity New Zealand has launched its winter campaign to help raise awareness of a particularly unwanted pest – the brown marmorated stink bug, or BMSB (pictured above).

This bug poses a major threat to New Zealand’s horticulture industry, with the potential to cost the country nearly $4 billion if it established here, says Biosecurity New Zealand’s manager of readiness, Dr Cath Duthie.

“There is always the chance the unwanted pest could arrive in parcels and with other imported items. We very much want the public to help us with our surveillance efforts.”

The BMSB winter campaign focuses on showing people how to correctly identify BMSB and report it. BMSB looks like some other bug species but has elements that make it identifiable, including white stripes or banding on its antennae and abdomen. Continue reading

Biosecurity NZ responds to reports of Indonesia Foot and Mouth outbreak

Biosecurity New Zealand is closely monitoring reports of a Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Indonesia, says its Deputy Director-General, Stuart Anderson.

His agency understands the outbreak is yet to be formally reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and is keeping a close watch on developments.

The risk was low, but “we have notified our primary sector partners”.

New Zealand’s biosecurity system includes risk assessment, visual inspections, X-ray screening, scanning technology, and detector dogs to prevent risk goods from being carried into New Zealand by travellers or arriving by mail.

All shipping containers and imported goods are assessed for biosecurity risk. Continue reading

Budget 22 investing in biosecurity for future economic security

The Government is strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity system as part of Budget 2022 to help protect our vital primary sector and native flora and fauna, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor announced.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Damien O’Connor visited the national bulk milk testing laboratory MilkTestNZ in Waikato today to mark the success of the Mycoplasma Bovis (M. bovis) programme and announced funding of $42.9 million to bolster the biosecurity system as part of Budget 2022 and $68m over the next year for M. bovis eradication.

“New Zealand’s flora, fauna and livestock are the foundations of our primary sector, economy, rural communities and our economic security,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The world is reopening from the pandemic. With increased travel alongside a warming climate we face challenges from pests and diseases, which requires further investments to strengthen our biosecurity system. Continue reading

Joint M. bovis eradication plan reaches significant milestone

Four years into a world-first attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, agreed jointly between the Government and farming sector groups, just one infected property remains in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor marked the milestone at the national bulk milk testing lab MilkTestNZ in Waikato today alongside eradication partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

“When we took our one shot to eradicate we did so to protect our national herd from a painful disease, our economy from a sharp shock, and our rural communities from widespread anxiety,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Our partnership with the primary sector was critical. No one in the world had attempted to eradicate M. bovis before, and if we were going to try something that had never been done, we needed to do so together.

“I want to acknowledge how tough it’s been for those farmers who have lost their herds and stock genetics built up over decades. Your action has preserved our productive sectors that underpin the prosperity of all New Zealanders.

“I acknowledge this important milestone today from which we can move forward into the next stage of the programme, to progress our goal towards eradication,” Jacinda Ardern said. Continue reading

 Myrtle rust is found on Chilean guava on the Chatham Islands

Myrtle rust has been found on the Chatham Islands.

The  disease, caused by the invasive fungus Austropuccinia psidii, impacts plants in the Myrtaceae family (myrtles) including iconic New Zealand species like pōhutukawa. But  there are no endemic Myrtaceae on the islands and the find was made on the highly invasive Myrtaceous weed Chilean guava (Ugni molinae).

This has led Peter de Lange, a researcher with the Beyond Myrtle Rust programme, to believe there could be a silver lining to this discovery.

In late March, a member of the public brought a diseased plant sample to the Department of Conservation (DOC). The sample, which was confirmed as myrtle rust, was from the north end of the main island.

“Since myrtle rust is spread by wind and the Chatham Islands are downwind of New Zealand, its arrival was inevitable,” says de Lange, who had been surveying the Chatham Islands for myrtle rust before COVID lockdowns restricted travel out of Auckland. Continue reading

Trade Me plant sales are being scrutinised as part of biosecurity project

Plant sales that were transacted on the Trade Me website between 2012 and 2019 are being examined by Maddie Marshall, a Lincoln University PhD candidate, for use in shaping bioprotection schemes and biosecurity responses.

Her research is not specifically looking at pathogen and pest spread, but is structured to identify the volume of plants sold and what suburbs are of highest influence to the sales networks.

“Then, if a pest or pathogen were to emerge that threatened a specific plant variety, the informal plant trade has been pre-characterised and precautions can be undertaken in the most critical places,” Maddie says.

Maddie is part of the Biosecurity Network Interventions project, led by Lincoln University Distinguished Professor Phillip Hulme, and features in a new article on the Bioheritage NZ website.  .

Her work involves examining three different plant trade systems within New Zealand: forestry, nurseries, and the Trade Me transactions. Continue reading

New pests and diseases reporting tool strengthens our biosecurity system

Biosecurity New Zealand has released a new web tool for people to report suspected exotic pests and diseases online.

Alerts from the public about things that appear out of the ordinary to them, along with reports from primary-sector partners, make up an important part of New Zealand’s strong biosecurity system, says Biosecurity New Zealand’s deputy director-general, Stuart Anderson.

In 2021, phone calls to the ministry’s exotic pests and diseases hotline triggered 1,942 investigations.

Few of those resulted in actual incursions, but every report was valued, Mr Anderson said. Continue reading

Celebrating champions and innovators of New Zealand’s biosecurity

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has announced this year’s New Zealand Biosecurity Awards winners, saying their skills, dedication and knowledge underpin Aotearoa’s world-leading biosecurity system – a fundamental aspect to New Zealand’s economic strength.

It’s the fifth year of celebrating those who go above and beyond to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

“These are people and organisations who help to ensure our unique way of life is protected and enhanced for future generations,” Damien O’Connor said.

Peter Wilkins receives the Minister’s Biosecurity Award, which recognises an individual, group or organisation that has at least 10 years of continuous outstanding contribution to biosecurity in New Zealand.

“Peter works for AsureQuality and has dedicated more than 45 years to protecting our taonga,” Damien O’Connor said.

During that time he has responded to more than 80 pest incursions. These span a huge array of pathogens and pests, ranging from termites through to the painted apple moth and fruit fly incursions. His calm leadership and commitment to strengthening our biosecurity system makes him a very worthy recipient.  Continue reading

Russell Lowe and the saving of the kiwifruit industry

Scientist Russell Lowe has been introduced to Stuff readers as “the man who saved New Zealand’s billion-dollar kiwifruit industry from disease”.

The article, written by journalist and author Nicky Pellegrino, says it is no exaggeration to say that kiwifruit have been Russell Lowe’s life.

For more than 50 years as a plant scientist, the New Zealand scientist has been devoted to the little green, gold and now red fruits formerly known here as Chinese gooseberries.

But his contribution was perhaps best summed up when he was presented with the Plant Raiser’s Award by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture last year.

In a speech when he was presenting the award, RNZIH president Dr Keith Hammett said Lowe was widely considered to have saved New Zealand’s entire kiwifruit industry after it was devastated by the virulent bacterial disease PSA (Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae).” Continue reading

Independent report on M.bovis response welcomed

Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has welcomed an independent review into the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme, which has found it is on track to achieve eradication and made recommendations to boost biosecurity work.

The review finds the programme is running well and is on track to achieve the world first of eradicating M.bovis, Mr O’Connor said.

It also notes the impact on farmers involved and the work the programme has done over the past two years to make necessary improvements, following a difficult start.

“We are now in a situation where we are down to four infected farms, all of which are situated in Canterbury.” Continue reading