PSA fears for Whangarei in new alert

By Mike Barrington

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A Whangarei kiwifruit orchard has tested provisionally positive for Psa-V and tests were to confirm last night or this morning whether the vine-killing disease had arrived in the city.

Meanwhile, in Kerikeri the initial infestation confirming the presence of Psa-V in Northland at the end of last month has spread, with the disease now identified on three orchards there.

Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) chief executive Barry O'Neil said yesterday that, as with all orchards suspected of harbouring Psa-V, duplicate samples had been taken at the Whangarei orchard.

"The samples were sent to two different laboratories for testing and we will get the results back tonight or tomorrow morning," he said.

Regarding the confirmation of Psa-V on three orchards at Kerikeri, where the KVH has established a "controlled area" around 102 orchards, Mr O'Neil said the identification of the disease on orchards other than the one where it was first found was a pattern seen in other areas.

"The disease has probably been around for six to 12 months," he said.

"Investigations find it is usually more widely distributed than the first signs of it indicate."

The KVH regional co-ordinator for Whangarei, Alan Worsfold of Maungatapere, declined to comment on the possible city outbreak before the presence of the disease had been confirmed.

He said there were "sensitivities" around the situation because the owner of the orchard being tested should be the first to know if Psa-V was present.

Psa-V was first confirmed in New Zealand about two years ago and is now present on 1340 orchards around the country, about 950 of them at Te Puke, with others at Tauranga, Opotiki, Whakatane, Katikati, Waihi, Te Awamutu, Coromandel ... and now Northland.

There are about 40 kiwifruit orchards around Whangarei, mostly at Glenbervie and in the Maungatapere-Whatatiri area. The 140 or so kiwifruit orchards in Northland earned $38.5 million last season.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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