Queensland fruit fly found in Whangarei

  • Breaking
  • 02/04/2014

Whole fruits and vegetables will not be able to leave a 1.5km radius of the site where a Queensland fruit fly was found in Whangarei for at least two weeks, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says. 

The ministry is on high alert after a single male fruit fly was found in a surveillance trap in the Northland city.

The find comes around two months after another fruit fly was found in the same region, but the ministry does not believe the incidents are related.

MPI deputy director of general compliance and response Andrew Coleman says the fly was collected from a trap on April 1 and formally identified late yesterday.

It was trapped in the Parihaka area, around 400 metres from where the other fly was found in January.

"All our information at this stage tells us this detection is a new find and not related to the January incident," says Mr Coleman.

Field teams are setting up traps in the area to check for more of the insects and also providing information to residents.

The ministry has put the 1.5km circular controlled area around the site where the fruit fly was found and movement of fruit and vegetables, excluding leafy and root vegetables, from the area has been restricted. The affected places include parts of Parihaka, Riverside and central Whangarei.

Within the wider controlled areas, a second smaller zone around 200m from the find, has been set up and fruit and vegetables cannot be moved from that area at all.

However, fresh produce can still be brought into the controlled area.

Mr Coleman says while the residents of Whangarei have been supportive of the ministry's efforts, the second find this year is disappointing.

Meanwhile, residents have been asked to avoid composting produce and if possible use a sink waste disposal unit instead.

There will be special bins in the controlled area for residents to dump fruit and vegetable waste.

The Queensland fruit fly has been found four times in New Zealand, most recently in January, and in each case no further flies were found.

"As in January, it is vital we find out if the insect is a solitary find or if there is a wider population in Whangarei," Mr Coleman says.

"This insect is an unwanted and notifiable organism that could have serious consequences for New Zealand's horticultural industry and home gardeners.  It can damage a wide range of fruit and vegetables."

Labour: Ban fruit and vegetable imports immediately

The Labour Party has labelled the find a "massive failure" of New Zealand's biosecurity system and the Government needs to put an immediate ban on importing fruit from high-risk areas.

Primary Industries spokesman Damien O'Connor says "more drastic action must be taken until the pathway these pests took into New Zealand has been determined".

"It seems pointless to set up a controlled area when we are still importing fruit from Australian states such as Queensland and New South Wales which are struggling to control fruit flies."

He also says the discovery of the fruit fly, as well as the four others in the past, reveals a systemic problem the MPI hasn't been able to fix.

"At a cost to the taxpayer of $1 million dollars a fly, it would be better for the Government to invest more in front-line biosecurity prevention," he says.

He has called for a review of the ministry's response to the incident and says if it is found poor resourcing was a contributing factor, it must reassess its biosecurity incursions.

"Labour believes we need an independent biosecurity agency that is properly equipped and funded to handle this constant risk. This latest discovery reinforces this need," Mr O'Connor says.

"A Labour government will ensure there are enough biosecurity officers to protect New Zealand from these flies which can devastate our lucrative horticulture crops."

Green Party biosecurity spokesman Steffan Browning says the fruit fly raises questions about the country's biosecurity preparedness.

"New Zealand can’t leave our biosecurity to chance. We need to invest in our frontline systems to protect our primary food producing industries," he says.

Fruit fly populations in Australia have increased significantly in the past few months and the ministry is reviewing its importing requirements for goods at risk of having fruit flies.

Mr Coleman says the ministry has been successful so far in keeping the Queensland fruit fly out of New Zealand crops.

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