The Ministry for Primary Industries is taking steps to contain the spread of myrtle rust
fungus after it was discovered at a Te Puke property.

Laboratory tests by the ministry found a 25-year-old ramarama plant in a private residential garden in the town was infected.

It was the first find in some weeks outside of the key infection area in Taranaki.

Incident controller David Yard said the discovery was disappointing.

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Mr Yard said the property had been placed under controls to stop any movement of plant material or other at-risk goods.

The ministry had a team removing the affected plant, spraying the area with fungicide and doing a thorough check of the garden. The team would also begin a concentrated survey of vegetation surrounding the find.

"Our preliminary talks with the property owner have not found any obvious link with the situation in Taranaki or Northland, and there have been no recent nursery plant introductions to the garden. This lends weight to the possibility that this new location is a wind-borne infection."

Mr Yard thanked the Te Puke homeowner for contacting the ministry when she saw suspicious symptoms on her tree.

''Building our knowledge of this issue and the distribution of the disease will enable us to make the best possible decisions about managing this into the future."

Apiculture NZ Bay of Plenty representative Dennis Crowley said it was ''too soon to tell'' what the impact of the find would be on beekeepers and others.

''If reports out of Australia are correct the leptospermum varieties did not seem to be as badly affected as other myrtle rust varieties at this stage,'' he said.

''But we don't know how it will react to New Zealand conditions. We will be keeping up with any developments.''

The next step would be the management of myrtle rust, he said.

Les Anstis, managing director of the Oropi-based Naturally Native Nursery, was concerned myrtle rust was in the Bay of Plenty.

"It's very close to home but as I have said before this is an airborne incursion and it's only a matter of time before we have it in Tauranga . . . but today we don't. ''

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said myrtle rust did not affect kiwifruit or avocado plants.

"It is business as usual for kiwifruit growers who have recovered so well from Psa, but I recognise there will be some uncertainty for others including the manuka honey sector," Mr McClay said.

"It's obviously very disappointing that this wind-borne fungus has spread to the Bay of Plenty, but MPI will do everything within their power to manage this infection," he said.

"We saw during the Psa outbreak just how resilient our growers and communities can be.''

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said MPI would eventually put a grid formation around the property in Te Puke and inspect the areas around it.

''The challenge here is no country has eradicated myrtle rust, so we are trying to contain it to the greatest extent possible. ''

Bay of Plenty Regional Council biosecurity manager Greg Corbett said the council had confidence in the work MPI was doing in leading the response.

''We have offered our services and are ready to assist them if required.''

A Department of Conservation spokesman said it was helping MPI at a strategic level.


Myrtle rust
Only affects plants in the myrtle family.
These include rata, pohutukawa, manuka, kanuka, ramarama, lilly-pilly (Eugenia), bottlebrush, feijoa, guava and eucalypts.
To date, there are 46 known infected properties in New Zealand - four in Northland, two in Waikato, 39 in Taranaki and the one new find in Bay of Plenty.

Look out for
Bright yellow powdery eruptions appearing on the underside of the leaf (young infection).
Bright yellow powdery eruptions on both sides of the leaf (mature infection).
Brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) on older lesions.
If you spot it, don't touch it.
Take a photo and call MPI on 0800 80 99 66.