Myr­tle Rust could dec­i­mate NZ na­tives

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - TERESA RAM­SEY

The at­tack on po­hutukawa started by pos­sums could be fin­ished off by myr­tle rust.

Con­ser­va­tion Depart­ment staff are col­lect­ing seeds na­tion­wide in case of a po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic out­break of the fun­gal dis­ease.

Some staff are even dan­gling from he­li­copters to reach re­mote spec­i­mens.

Myr­tle rust at­tacks mem­bers of the myr­taceae plant fam­ily, which in­cludes po­hutukawa, manuka, kanuka, rata and fei­joa trees.

The dis­ease has al­ready been found on 25 prop­er­ties - two in Waikato, three in North­land and 20 in Taranaki.

Hau­raki DOC senior ranger Ni­cholas Ha­mon said DOC was pre­par­ing for the worst by col­lect­ing the seeds of the trea­sured na­tives.

‘‘It’s ab­so­lutely some­thing that peo­ple should be vig­i­lant for. Ob­vi­ously the Govern­ment is tak­ing it very se­ri­ously with col­lect­ing seeds,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of our coastal po­hutukawa have al­ready been lost on the penin­sula through pos­sum browse, so there are big seg­ments of our coast­line ac­tu­ally de­void of po­hutukawa now.

‘‘And to lose those last big seg­ments would just be a tragedy, an ab­so­lute tragedy. There’s a lot at stake with this.’’

Whi­tianga DOC staff were hang­ing from a he­li­copter to col­lect the seeds this week in some re­mote re­gions, such as the Moe­hau Range at the top of the Coro­man­del, he said.

In the Thames/Hau­raki area, manuka and po­hutukawa seeds from 50 spec­i­mens were col­lected. Po­hutukawa seeds were col­lected from Tararu to Waiomu and manuka seeds were taken from Kop­u­atai peat dome on the Hau­raki Plains.

‘‘They are en­sur­ing that we have a seed bank of seeds from this gen­er­a­tion of trees so that if the worst should hap­pen,’’ Ha­mon said.

‘‘If myr­tle took over the penin- sula, and it was ac­tu­ally 90 per cent of our po­hutukawa lost, we’ve got that ge­netic strain stored from the penin­sula po­hutukawa to re­place them.’’

DOC staff found no signs of myr­tle rust on any of the po­hutukawa or manuka in Hau­raki that they looked at, he said.

DOC is urg­ing ev­ery­one to check neigh­bour­hood trees and if there are any con­cerns, phone the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries hot­line: 0800 80 99 66.

If you think you’ve spot­ted myr­tle rust, don’t touch the in­fec­tion. Find more in­for­ma­tion at mpi.govt.nz/alerts or doc.govt.nz.

123RF

Po­hutukawa trees are one species po­ten­tially af­fected by myr­tle rust.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.