MPI wants all New Zealanders to follow the lead of an Oamaru man who had ''the nous and foresight'' to take the appropriate action after finding brown marmorated stink bugs, potentially saving the horticulture industry billions of dollars. The Otago Daily Times' Sally Brooker reports

Twenty-six live brown marmorated stink bugs arrived in Oamaru last week in a box of shoes bought on eBay.

The bugs are one of the most dreaded pests on the Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI) watch list because they could devastate crops and infest homes.

However, the Oamaru shoe-buyer put the bugs in a jar and contacted the ministry's hotline, so the insects were not released into the environment.

Advertisement

Read more: Dozens of stink bugs found in box of shoes bought on eBay

A ministry spokesman told Central Rural Life the bugs were quickly contained and no longer posed any biosecurity risk.

''We see alerts like this from the public as an important part of biosecurity,'' he said.

''They allow us to act quickly to eliminate any biosecurity threats.

''We very much commend the actions of the member of the public in Oamaru who contacted us about the stink bug find.

''We ask anyone who orders parcels on the internet to carefully check the item and ring our hotline (0900 80 9666) if there is any sign of hitchhiking bugs.''

National MP Nathan Guy raised concerns by releasing a statement last Thursday, after hearing of the incident in a ministry briefing to a parliamentary select committee.

Guy referred the matter to his National colleague Jacqui Dean, the Waitaki MP.

Dean said she understood it took three days for the ministry to assess whether the insects were brown marmorated stink bugs. They were apparently identified last Wednesday.

''Stink bugs are a ticking time bomb in New Zealand,'' she said.

''They're endemic in other parts of the world.

''They're absolutely nasty.

''For the horticulture industry, there's a potential cost to New Zealand of $4 billion.''

If a colony became established in Oamaru, the bugs could infest domestic fruit trees, move on to grapevines up the Waitaki Valley, and on to crops grown in North Otago and South Canterbury.

''It's appalling when you drill down,'' Dean said.

There were 300 plants that could host the bugs, which would swarm over them and strip them.

''This is the first time they have arrived in New Zealand via post.

''We only have two stink bug-trained customs dogs.''

Dean said she was thankful the Oamaru person had ''the nous and foresight'' to take the appropriate action after finding the bugs. If she knew who the person was, she would call around and shake their hand.

- Central Rural Life