Threat from fruit fly declared over

By Mike Dinsdale

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The Whangarei fruit-fly scare that threatened the county's $4billion horticulture industry is over.

Up to 120 Ministry of Primary Industry and Quality Assure staff have been working on the biosecurity threat in Whangarei since a single male Queensland fruit fly was found in a garden in the Riverside/Parihaka area, on January 21.

That led to controlled areas being set up and restrictions on moving fruit, but MPI said yesterday the threat was over.

MPI Deputy Director-General, Compliance and Response, Andrew Coleman, said two weeks of trapping, fruit sampling and testing for a wider presence of the Queensland fruit fly had ended.

"I am delighted to say that our rigorous checks found no further sign of the Queensland fruit fly in the Whangarei area. New Zealand's fruit fly-free status remains intact, as it has throughout this response. There is no longer any need for residents in the area to be restricted in their movements of produce," he said. The restrictions banned people from taking fresh fruit or vegetables, other than leafy and root varieties, out of the controlled area, 1.5km-diameter circle around the site where the initial fruit fly was found.

Mr Coleman said the restrictions were precautionary while MPI carried out intensive checks for any further flies. Had a population been found, the controls in place would have prevented any spread of the pest out of the area.

"(Whangarei) community help was vital. Queensland fruit fly is a major pest of a wide range of crops. Had this pest become established in New Zealand, it would have had serious consequences for our home gardeners, horticultural growers and the wider New Zealand economy."

MPI would continue its routine fruit-fly surveillance programme, with an additional 33 traps left in high-risk locations such as near landfills and industrial areas. Anybody who found anything of concern, particularly insects or larvae in fruit, should contact MPI's pests and diseases hotline 0800 80 99 66.

- Northern Advocate

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