Fears that myrtle rust had invaded the Manawatu Gorge walking tracks were unfounded after an inspection at the weekend.

News the gorge walking tracks, which had been reopened just last Tuesday by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, were again closed caused some anxious moments for Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis.

"The repercussions would be swift and hurt," she said.

However, although rumours spread swiftly about the track closure, a call by the Dannevirke News to the Horizons Regional Council allayed fears.


With a possible sighting of myrtle rust in the gorge the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) had asked the Department of Conservation to close the tracks as a precautionary measure. But tests proved negative and the popular walking tracks were open again on Sunday.

The Manawatu Gorge walking tracks draw up to 70,000 visitors a year and provide an economic boost to our district, Mrs Collis said.

"The fallout would have been dreadful," she said. "I was also concerned for the nurseries in our region too."

MPI has asked the Horizons Regional Council to assist in the hunt for myrtle rust - a serious fungal disease.

Myrtle rust was first detected in New Zealand in a Northland nursery this month and is believed to have arrived via spores from Australia. Severe infestations can kill affected plants in the myrtle family, such as pōhutukawa and mānuka, and have long-term impacts on the regeneration of young plants and seedlings.

Horizons biodiversity, biosecurity, and partnerships manager Rod Smillie said although myrtle rust hasn't been detected in the Horizons region, his team has been asked to identify if any myrtle species are to be included in upcoming riparian plantings.

"MPI wants to know where the plant material is being sourced from and where it's to be planted," he said.

"This is to determine if any of these plants could have been in contact with infected plants before making their way to us. Myrtle species are included in the mix of seedlings to be planted in riparian and biodiversity sites so we are currently collating the information required to send back to MPI this afternoon."


Mr Smillie said Horizons endorses the MPI request for the public to check their own gardens and planting areas for myrtle rust and to report any suspicious detections to MPI on 0800 80 99 66.

"Myrtle rust generally attacks soft, new growth, including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers, and fruit. Symptoms to look for include bright yellow powder on both sides of leaves.

"If myrtle rust is detected in the region our biosecurity staff will assist MPI in responding to the event so we have asked staff to be on standby as a precaution," he said.