Stricter import requirements for vehicles and sea containers would allow the brown marmorated stink bug to be dealt with offshore before it could hitch a ride to the Port of Tauranga, experts say.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is seeking feedback on plans to introduce the stricter import requirements to make it harder for the stink bug to establish itself in New Zealand.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said stricter rules were a good idea to help protect the highly important horticultural industry.

Cairns said the stricter import rules would mean fumigation would be undertaken offshore at the source before arriving into Tauranga and New Zealand.

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The port had tightened up a number of its transitional facilities after a lone male brown marmorated stink bug was detected in Mount Maunganui in December last year, Cairns said.

The bug was found on a side table, just inside the main entrance of a Mount home on December 15.

"It is believed to have come in on a container through a transitional facility," said Cairns.

He welcomed stricter import requirements to help stop any further detection of the bug.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns. Photo / File
Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns. Photo / File

Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Stu Hutchings said the more prevention done at the border the better the chance of stopping the stink bug establishing here.

Hutchings said stricter requirements on import agencies was the key to stopping the bug.

"It means any bugs would be killed and treated before coming here," he said.

"There are two impacts, production and loss for horticultural industries, including kiwifruit, as it can damage fruit and living communities.

"The bugs go into hibernation in the winter and hundreds can come into houses. In summer they come out and eat attack veggie gardens and trees."

Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Stu Hutchings. Photo / File
Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Stu Hutchings. Photo / File

Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital co-chairman Graeme Marshall said anything that diminished the risk had to be good.

"This is a bug that we do not want here in New Zealand. It could have a devastating impact on a wide range of horticultural and agricultural industries and native flora."

Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital co-chairman Graeme Marshall. Photo / File
Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital co-chairman Graeme Marshall. Photo / File

Biosecurity New Zealand spokeswoman Dr Cath Duthie said the invasive pest was continuing to spread throughout Europe and the United States.

"The proposed new measures will help stop bugs from hitching a ride to New Zealand," she said.

The proposed changes included extending the list of countries that have requirements to treat vehicles, machinery and equipment imports before arriving in New Zealand.

Currently, 18 countries have pre-treatment requirements - the proposed new list will increase to 33 countries.

All imported cargo related to vehicles will need to be treated off-shore, including sea containers. In the past, only uncontainerised cargo has required treatment before arrival.

Ministry for Primary Industries also intends to refine some of the off-shore management requirements under the existing import standard for vehicles.

The ministry has increased its border checks of arriving vessels at the start of this year's stink bug season. It also introduced tighter rules for importing vehicles for several countries.

So far this season, to the end of March, border officers have detected 123 live stink bugs.
Consultation will run from April 3 to June 3.

What is a brown marmorated stink bug?

It is a shield-shaped insect about the size of a 10 cent piece with distinctive black and white banding on the abdomen and the antennae.

If you think you have detected a suspect insect, catch it, photograph it, report it – call the Biosecurity New Zealand hotline on 0800 80 99 66.