The fungal plant disease myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) has been confirmed at Waitara in Taranaki and Kerikeri in Northland by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in May 2017.

Myrtle rust can have serious consequences for various species of plants in the myrtle family, including New Zealand native plants such as:

Pōhutukawa Ramarama
Rata Rōhutu
Mānuka Swamp maire
Kānuka  

Introduced plants including, feijoa, eucalypts and bottle brushes are also susceptible to myrtle rust.

DOC is working closely with MPI trying to restrict the spread of the disease. DOC staff are actively looking out for potentially infected plants in the wild. The impact on native forests will be noticeable if myrtle rust becomes established.

DOC began seed collection of potentially affected species some years ago and the urgency to get full representation of all Myrtaceous native species is imperative.

The THREAT

The disease could be on any plants from an infected area taken to a revegetation site. It can also be carried on clothing or vehicles. Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and can easily spread across large distances by wind, or via insects, birds, people, or machinery.

If it becomes widespread it will impact all of New Zealand’s Myrtaceae to some degree and we are likely to lose some native species in their natural state. Ecological integrity will be compromised in places where myrtles are a dominant species. It is also likely to affect commercial activities (e.g. manuka honey industry), tourism, recreation and landscape values.

It is very important community planting groups, volunteers and all those who go into the forest follow certain hygiene protocols to restrict the spread of the wind-borne disease. Revegetation work is a potential vector for spreading myrtle rust. People doing voluntary conservation work of any type, could inadvertently spread the disease.

Community Group Action

If you are growing plants

Commercial plant nurseries within restricted high risk zones are required by MPI to comply with NZPPI protocols of plant hygiene or businesses that may have received plants from an infected place (nursery). For all other nurseries, the protocols are strongly recommended, but not mandatory.

Other plant nurseries are requested to comply with these protocols so the next link in the chain is where the plants go to from the nurseries.

DOC is encouraging community groups to keep an eye out for symptoms of the disease and to adopt the same protocols to lower the possibility of any further spread of myrtle rust.

If you are planning to plant

For groups located in Northland and Taranaki regions, Myrtaceous plants should not be planted at any planting days coming up, unless the disease is declared to be eradicated before the proposed planting date. For all other plant species, it is advisable to ensure the nursery of origin has been adhering to the NZPPI hygiene protocols and you keep a record of number of plants by species, their origin and planting location, as these plants can still be a vector.

For commercial nurseries, you can check the Nursery Management Declaration (http://nzppi.co.nz/documents/pests/MR-Nursery-Management-Declaration.pdf) from the relevant supplier nursery to ensure plants were inspected and treated at the source nursery as per NZPPI guidelines. This will ensure appropriate checks are in place at two levels (supplier nursery as well as the receiving nurseries) to identify and remove suspect myrtle rust infected plants from the trade chain.

Hygiene Recommendations for Community Groups:

  • Check any myrtaceae plants for symptoms of myrtle rust
  • If you are bringing myrtaceae plants in, check the site the plants are coming from has been surveyed for symptoms of myrtle rust.
  • If you suspect myrtle rust, please take a photo and report to MPI (0800 80 99 66). Don’t move any plants, produce or gardening equipment offsite until you hear back from MPI.

 

If you find anything suspicious

  1. Do not move the plants from the site or your truck.
  2. Take photos of the suspected myrtle rust and the whole plant.
  3. Do not attempt to touch or collect samples as this may increase the spread of this disease.
  4. If possible, isolate the plants with an igloo-hoop-like plastic cover.
  5. Call MPI’s exotic pests and diseases hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

 

More information

More information can be found on

The Department thanks you for your support and if you have any questions about your community group response to myrtle rust, please email

Adele Meyer: ameyer@doc.govt.nz or phone 0278727187