As soon as myrtle rust was discovered here the government should have been ready and prepared with an immediate formal announcement. Instead, Minister Guy was caught out completely.
The unwelcome arrival of myrtle rust in New Zealand is a major concern for New Zealand and a blow for Northland. It's unfortunate that a Kerikeri nursery owner was the first to discover this destructive fungus on some of his pohutukawa trees. We know now that a second Kerikeri orchard has been affected.
New Zealand First raised the serious risk of myrtle rust in Parliament a month ago, and immediately before confirmation last week. We are not seeking credit for this, but we wanted to make sure New Zealand was prepared should an outbreak occur.
Myrtle rust can prove devastating for feijoa orchards, eucalyptus forests, nurseries growing myrtaceous species, and is a serious risk to our native icons pohutukawa, rata, kanuka and manuka.
Export revenue for New Zealand pure honey reached a record $315 million last financial year, up 35 per cent on the previous year, and much of this success was down to manuka honey.
Tougher times for the industry are now on the horizon.
The arrival of myrtle rust could kill whole tracts of manuka if it spreads, after what beekeepers have called the worst summer for honey-making in two decades.
All this will impact on the Northland economy. And we have had plenty of time to prepare.
Myrtle rust (puccinia psidii) originated in South America, and reached Australia in 2010. It is likely that the rust found in Kerikeri originated from the other side of the Tasman.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says it was wind-borne. How does he know it wasn't transported here by humans?
Given the devastating impact of myrtle rust in Australia, which includes the threat of driving iconic species such as Australian parakeets and silver foxes into extinction, the massive risks were well known by our government.
They should have kept the public better informed about this deadly fungus. As soon as myrtle rust was discovered here they should have been ready and prepared with an immediate formal announcement. Instead, Minister Guy was caught out completely.
The news broke only after New Zealand First made it known and the news media picked it up.
The day after there should have been advertisements in our major newspapers asking for the public to assist in looking for any further incursions of the fungus. There were none.
It has been disappointing also to learn that some Northland beekeepers and the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, which owns four orchards and has interests in two large forestry leases, had not even been contacted by the Ministry of Primary Industries about the threat four days after the outbreak became publicly known.
In March, Mr Guy had the cheek to say biosecurity was his No1 priority. If that is so, I fear for his other priorities.