The Environmental Protection Authority will consider a solution to the invasive Chilean needle grass, which can blind lambs and injure farm dogs.

The grass is found at about 300 sites around New Zealand, covering 4000 hectares, but research by the EPA suggests more than 15 million hectares might be at risk in the future.

The grass, common in Australia, displaces other types of grass but has much less nutritional value and its sharply pointed seeds bore into the skin of stock and farm dogs, causing wounds and sometimes blinding lambs.

Marlborough District Council has applied to introduce a rust fungus from Argentina on behalf of a consortium of regional councils and the Department of Conservation.


The fungus - Uromyces pencanus - infects the leaves of Chilean needle grass and competes with them for nutrients, with debilitating effects. Its spores spread rapidly on the wind.

A year-long study in Argentina found the fungus did not spread to plants other than the target needle grass, and there would be no threat to New Zealand plants.

The EPA will consider the risks and benefits before any decision is made to release the rust in New Zealand.

Public submissions have opened and close on March 13.