MPI slammed for lifting Taranaki myrtle rust containment notice

The Ministry for Primary Industries is being accused of dropping the ball on containing myrtle rust.

It announced yesterday that it is lifting the controlled area notice in Taranaki, despite the Department of Conservation (DoC) finding the fungus on conservation land in the region for the first time.

Tree Council chair Sean Freeman told Newshub he's unimpressed.

"It's very disappointing that MPI have repeated the same pattern of mistakes that were seen when this organism entered Australia."

But MPI rust incident controller Dr Catherine Duthie says restrictions weren't working anyway.

"Recent weather experienced across much of the country - warm, wet and windy - has been optimal for myrtle rust sporulation and six regions are now known to be infected.

"The reasons for having a controlled area focused on Waitara no longer remain."

Since July, most detections have been found on mature trees in residential properties, MPI says, increasing the likelihood that myrtle rust spores have been spreading naturally on the wind.

Mr Freeman fears that without the controlled area notice, the upcoming winter planting season will see the air-borne rust spread.

"The movement of plant material that is infected but is not actually showing infection is highly likely and we will be spreading this disease, this organism, this rust in our efforts to revegetate areas."

He fears the opportunity to contain the spread has been lost.