Whangarei residents have been given a huge pat on the back by the Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, for their support, help and understanding in the fruit fly scare that threatens to jeopardise the country's $4 billion horticulture exports.
Up to 120 MPI and Quality Assure staff have been working in Whangarei since one male Queensland fruit fly was found in the Riverside/Parihaka area last Tuesday.
If more flies are found the Government may have to mount a massive spraying and eradication programme, but Mr Guy, who was in Whangarei yesterday, said the main focus at the moment was finding out if there were any more around. It is his second visit since the scare arose and he said he had been impressed by those doing the detecting, and also by the people of Whangarei.
He said they had been great in supporting MPI efforts and extremely patient.
"It's been a very good response (from the community) and I have a lot of confidence in our response (in dealing with the scare)," Mr Guy said. "We learnt a lot from the 2012 Avondale situation (where a single male fly sparked a major biosecurity operation) and, as a result of those learnings, which were peer reviewed, we put out a response very quickly."
The public were abiding by the regulations in Zones A and B. People cannot take fresh fruit or vegetables, other than leafy and root varieties, out of the 1.5km circular Zone B area. In the heart of that is Zone A, where a 200m circle surrounds the property where the fruit fly was found.
Mr Guy said he was happy with the response of supermarket Countdown Whangarei, which is in Zone B, and MPI staff were stationed in it to advise customers of their obligations. As of yesterday no further fruit flies had been found.
MPI is collecting fruit and vegetables from home gardens and from disposal bins for analysis and has 83 lure traps in place in Zone A and 183 traps in Zone B.