By Maja Burry of RNZ

Biosecurity New Zealand has suspended fresh melon imports from Queensland after an unwanted fruit disease was detected at the border.

The department says routine testing on Friday detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) on a consignment of watermelons from Queensland, Australia.

Biosecurity NZ plants and pathways director Peter Thomson said CGMMV did not pose a risk to human health, but if introduced to New Zealand, it could have a serious impact on local production of cucurbit crops. The virus can deform young leaves and damage fruit.

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Fruit from the cucurbit family included watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, rock melon, scallopini, zucchini, and pumpkin, Thomson said.

"There is no suggestion the disease is in New Zealand. As a precautionary measure, Biosecurity NZ has suspended imports of fresh cucurbit fruit from Queensland."

Thomson said the suspension currently affected several melon consignments that had been placed on hold at the border. Biosecurity officials were working with importers to determine whether or not their product would be able to enter the New Zealand market, he said.

"We are also working closely with Australian authorities who have agreed to not issue export certificates for any new consignments until they have investigated the situation and taken corrective measures," Thomson said.

The length of the suspension would depend on how quickly Australian authorities could investigate the situation and put measures in place to assure New Zealand their product was free from the disease, he said.

"The import season for water, honey, and rock melons from Australia ends shortly. This will reduce any impact of the suspension for New Zealand consumers."

The virus was also detected twice at the border last year on two consignments of fresh watermelon from Australia.