The Ministry for Primary Industries is restricting the movement of people and plants in and out of affected areas where Myrtle Rust, the fungal plant disease threatening the survival of our Mānuka forests and plantations, has been discovered.
Karl Gradon, CEO of New Zealand Mānuka Group, confirms, “It is clear the disease is making its way across the country. It’s carried on birds, on cars and on peoples’ feet – it’s a spore and it’s going to spread.”
Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that severely attacks plants in the myrtle family including Pōhutukawa, Mānuka and Rātā. It is not known where the microscopic spores have come from, nor if it is the same type as that found in Australia and New Caledonia.
“We are working with many of our different industry partners to come up with control programmes,” continues Gradon. “We have been listening very closely to MPI and their recommendations, and are staying engaged with them.”
As Gradon warns, Myrtle Rust disease is a national threat to Mānuka, “Mānuka is a toanga, and one of the greatest national treasures on the iwi landholdings, where most our Mānuka grows wild. The impact of this disease needs to be taken very seriously by the Ministry of Primary Industries.”
New Zealand Mānuka Group is currently implementing extensive education and training for all their people directly involved in working with the Mānuka trees including how to identify the disease and what to do once it has been found.
“Most importantly, this is about education and making sure we have the right processes and management strategies are in place to prevent this disease from reaching our plantations,” explains Gradon.
MPI is continuing to work with all industry partners including the forestry, nursery and honey industries to ensure members are aware of what they can do to help.