Tauranga Moana launches biosecurity collective

National and international biosecurity experts will gather in Tauranga this week for a series of biosecurity-related events and the launch of a new initiative.

Local and national government, iwi, businesses and other organisations have banded together to form Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital (TMBC) to tackle the threat of invasive pests and diseases. It is the first group of its kind in New Zealand.

The partnership, which launches tomorrow, will promote and coordinate biosecurity actions across Tauranga Moana.

“In practice, that means increasing local awareness about why biosecurity matters deeply to all of us who live here and just what would be lost if exotic pests enter or establish here,” says TMBC programme director Andrew Harrison.

“It’s about a pretty powerful, knowledgeable group standing shoulder to shoulder and saying it’s absolutely essential we pool our expertise and resources for the sake of the environment, our taonga, our economy.”

Mr Harrison says immediate TMBC priorities include overseeing a week of biosecurity-related activities, starting today. These activities include industry training days and public events, conferences and information sessions involving forestry and kiwifruit industries, iwi, Port of Tauranga, school children and more.

The group will host a one-day symposium at Tauranga Yacht Club tomorrow, where Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor will launch TMBC. Speakers and delegates will be treated to a demonstration by detector dogs.

The Minister says TMBC is the first collective of its kind in New Zealand and an exemplar for other regions.

“The concept shows leadership by local people who are working together to protect their region,” Mr O’Connor says. “It’d be great to see more of the same spring up.”

Mr Harrison says several high-profile biosecurity incursions – Psa in kiwifruit, myrtle rust, Mysoplasma bovis, marine pests affecting our harbours – serve as a reminder of what is at stake.

“Here, we value the fruit produced by a local orchard or in our back yard, having a bbq outdoors, enjoying a tramp in our local bush. And a devastating pest like brown marmorated stink bug can swarm our region and take all of these away, as has happened offshore and must not happen here.

“Of course biosecurity also affects everyone earning a living and operating a business in the Bay of Plenty, where our economy is so dependent on the natural environment.”

TMBC supports the national Ko Tatou This Is Us campaign, unveiled last late last month, which focusses on the personal and cultural impacts of a biosecurity breach and asks all New Zealanders to help create ‘a biosecurity team of 4.7 million’.

Source: Tauranga Moana

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Recovery package unveiled for farmers getting back to business after Mycoplasma bovis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today set out a recovery package to help farmers get back to business more quickly after being cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

The recovery package, rolled out by the Ministry for Primary Industries and response partners DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ, includes:

  • DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ Compensation Assistance Team
    • DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ have put together a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The $400,000 cost is funded through the response.
  • Improved compensation form and guide
    • Set to be released this week, the simplified form will be easier to follow and the supporting guide will make clear what documents need to be submitted to ensure prompt payment of compensation claims.
  • Online milk production losses calculation tool
    • An online tool for farmers to easily estimate their milk production losses, to speed up compensation claims, will shortly be released.
  • Rural Support Trust boost
    • MPI has now completed training 80 Rural Support Trust members to provide crucial welfare support.
  • Regional Recovery Managers, in addition to the Acute Recovery Team
    • The Regional Centres in Invercargill, Oamaru, Ashburton and Hamilton will each have a regional recovery manager. They are being nominated and seconded by DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ and will help farmers develop a tailor-made recovery plan.

Ms Ardern and Mr O’Connor made the announcement on Bryce and Julie Stevenson’s beef farm in Wairarapa as the couple restock after eradicating Mycoplasma bovis.

Mr O’Connor said the response is making good progress in its world-first eradication attempt.

It was important to remember that confirmation of newly identified properties did not mean the disease was spreading, he said.

“It means we are tracing historically infected cattle and milk movements, many of which occurred before the disease had been discovered.

“Working closely with our farming industry partners, the Government remains confident eradication is on-track and we have a good chance of success. I thank all farmers who have helped get us to this point,” Damien O’Connor said.

Of New Zealand’s 24,000 farms, 74 have been infected to date with 36 subsequently destocked and cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Mycoplasma bovis survey of calf rearers under way

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its farming industry partners have taken the next step in the phased eradication of Mycoplasma bovis by starting a survey of about 200 calf rearing properties across the country.

The test involves a simple one-off nasal swab on calves at the property.

National controller Geoff Gwyn emphasised that the properties selected are not suspected of having Mycoplasma bovis.

 “The identified properties have no connection to other properties which are being tested or at risk of having M. bovis,” he says.

“In fact, if properties are connected to M. bovis properties they are being discounted from this survey as we will already be testing them as part of the response.

“This will give us some indication about the prevalence of M. bovis in beef herds.”

Both animal movements and milk supply, the two high-risk pathways of infection, would be captured.

“By targeting around 200 farms which source calves from at least five different locations, we are actually targeting at least 1,000 farms as the source farms will also have some assurance they are M. bovis free,” Mr Gwyn says.

Find out more about Mycoplasma bovis HERE. 

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Building a biosecurity team of 4.7 million New Zealanders

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor is calling on every New Zealander to help build a biosecurity team of 4.7 million as part of the Ko Tātou This Is Us campaign.

Ko Tātou This Is Us is an independent biosecurity brand that aims to connect all of us with the many ways we can help protect Aotearoa from pests and diseases.

“With biosecurity in the spotlight as we attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, turn away ships to keep the Brown marmorated stink bug out of New Zealand, and deal with the emergence and spread of Myrtle rust and Kauri dieback, now is the time for every New Zealander to stand up and take action on biosecurity,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Biosecurity keeps safe everything that shapes our unique way of life, from the great outdoors we farm, fish, hunt and play in to the biodiversity of our unique ecosystems.”

The campaign includes a video, featuring a kuia looking back on her life and urging New Zealanders to understand that everything shaping our way of life is finite and fragile and we must all play our part in protecting it from pests and diseases.

Go to thisisus.nz HERE. 

Source: Minister for Biosecurity

MPI releases 20,000 imported apple plants and 400 stonefruit plants

Around 20,000 apple plants and 400 stonefruit plants imported from a US testing facility have been released from all restrictions, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The plant material was seized after a ministry audit in March found a number of significant failures at Clean Plant Centre Northwest. MPI had little confidence in the testing carried out. An investigation by US authorities confirmed MPI’s findings.

MPI has now completed additional testing for pests and diseases of concern on the affected apple plants as well as a small number of stonefruit plants, says director of plant and pathways, Pete Thomson.

“As all the test results were negative and we are satisfied the biosecurity risk has been minimised, we’re pleased to be in the position to release these plants back to their owners.

“Throughout this process, our decisions have been based on protecting New Zealand and our wider horticultural industry. Some of the diseases, if present, could impact significantly on our wider horticultural industry.”

Nearly 20,000 stonefruit plants require further testing over spring and summer when diseases of concern will be most evident if they are present.

MPI has worked with affected nurseries, importers, and growers to develop detailed individual testing plans for each owner. These plans take into account testing that has already been done in New Zealand.

Almost 48,000 affected apple and stonefruit plants and small trees were secured at 50 sites in Hawke’s Bay, Waikato, Nelson and Central Otago. In total, 32 nurseries, importers, and growers were affected.

Just over 1,000 apple plants have been voluntarily destroyed by 12 owners. Twenty owners opted to destroy over 6,000 stonefruit plants.

“MPI remains open to receiving requests for payment for direct and verifiable losses incurred as a result of destroyed or contained plant material,” says Mr Thomson.

The ministry has written to all affected owners to offer one-on-one meetings to talk through the process.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

CRIs are collecting seeds in the race against myrtle rust

Pōhutukawa, mānuka, kānuka and other New Zealand seeds are being collected, grown, and tested for resilience to myrtle rust, a disease with the potential to wipe out entire native species and drastically change the country’s native landscape.

Myrtle rust attacks and can seriously affect plants in the Myrtaceae (myrtle) family, including pōhutukawa, mānuka, kānuka and rātā.

The fungal pathogen that causes myrtle rust is called Austropuccinia psidii. This fungus produces millions of small yellow-coloured spores that are easily wind-blown to new plants.

The pathogen was first found in Australia in 2010 and seven years later was identified in New Zealand. Since then it has spread quickly and has been reported on at least 600 properties.

An article by Suzette Howe, posted on the Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research website, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has launched a full-scale attack to better understand the disease and limit its impact on NZ’s  Myrtaceae plants.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research is one of a team of institutes taking part in the research programme.  It will be working on the project closely with Plant & Food Research over the next two years.

“What we are trying to do is work out which species are going to be affected by myrtle rust, so to do that we are collecting seed from a whole range of Myrtaceae species, i.e. from the family that is going to be affected by myrtle rust,” says ,” says Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientist Dr Gary Houliston.

“They’ll be sent to Australia to a screening facility, where they will be challenged with myrtle rust to see what’s susceptible,” he says.

Plant & Food Research plant pathologist Grant Smith, another of the key researchers working on the project, has worked in Australia helping with their response to myrtle rust and now oversees the seed collecting in New Zealand.

“Right now, what we are trying to do is get enough science data so we can make some decisions in 18 months about how we can respond from a science perspective to myrtle rust in New Zealand – for example, do we have resistance in mānuka that we can exploit in a breeding programme?” he says.

“We are also selecting material to safeguard via germplasm collections or seed banking,” says Dr Smith.

Testing seed resilience to the disease will give researchers information around ‘seed lines’ in New Zealand provinces that show a lot of resilience.

Mānuka and kānuka seeds are the first species to be collected and sent to Australia to be tested. From there, over the next year researchers will collect pōhutakawa and rātā and coordinate with other groups like Scion who are also doing research into this.

“This phase is what I consider to be a ‘secure future options’ to ensure we have options available for decisions we have yet to make,” says Dr Smith.

“In Australia, species extinction across the natural range of the plants is now becoming apparent. Understanding what resistance we have in our native plants, and seed banking those plants now before things get too bad, is essential to ensure we have the plant species available for future options,” he said.

All seed sent to Australia will be destroyed at the end of the project. Extra seed collected during the project is stored in seed banks in New Zealand.

Source: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

Enter the samurai wasp to protect NZ against stink bug

The samurai wasp, an organism new to New Zealand, can now be used to fight any invasion by the brown marmorated stink bug, following a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority.

This wasp is a natural enemy of the stink bug.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Council applied to us for approval to release the new organism, saying the stink bug poses one of the highest risk biosecurity threats to New Zealand. It noted that if the stink bug successfully breaches our biosecurity system and establishes, it would be very hard to eradicate.

The council includes groups representing the avocado, apple and pear, kiwifruit, tomato, vegetable, and wine industries, and the Ministry for Primary Industries. It noted that in the USA and Europe, the stink bug has caused severe economic damage to horticultural crops, and has invaded homes during the cold winter months.

After a public hearing and consideration of 69 submissions, 65 of which supported the application, we have approved the application, subject to a range of controls. Only the Ministry for Primary Industries) and its appointed agents may evoke the approval, because it is responsible for managing incursion responses and has the requisite expertise.

The samurai wasp may only be released in New Zealand after a stink bug invasion has been detected, and only at the location of the incursion. Before any conditional release is made MPI, in conjunction with the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Council, must submit a Response Readiness Plan to us.

This must provide verification of the incursion and how the conditions imposed for any release will be met. The plan must be reviewed and resubmitted within three years.

Any EPA approval to release the samurai wasp will expire after 10 years but may be extended.

In considering the application, the authority considered whether the samurai wasp might displace any native species or harm natural habitats. It also assessed the possibility of adverse effects on human health and safety, and on New Zealand’s genetic diversity.

The authority heard from several grower organisations and individual growers about the potential impact the brown marmorated stink bug might have on their industries and livelihoods. It noted that many horticultural industries rely on integrated pest management practice or the use of softer chemicals for pest control

A broad incursion by the brown marmorated stink bug would lead to widespread use of broad-spectrum agrichemicals, which are likely to adversely affect sustainable practices and access to export markets, the authority noted.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority