Myrtle rust found in Taranaki

Myrtle rust poses a threat to many plants including pohutakawa, rātā, mānuka and feijoa. (supplied)
Myrtle rust poses a threat to many plants including pohutakawa, rātā, mānuka and feijoa. (supplied)

Myrtle rust, the fungal disease found on New Zealand mainland for the first time ever this month, has now spread to Taranaki. 

The disease can cause serious damage to numerous species of both native and introduced plants in the myrtle family, including pohutukawa, rātā, mānuka, gum, bottlebrush, guava and feijoa. It's also known as guava rust and eucalyptus rust.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed that a plant nursery in Waitara, north of New Plymouth, has been infected with myrtle rust.

It was first reported by the nursery on Tuesday, and positive results were confirmed late on Wednesday morning.

MPI's myrtle rust response incident controller David Yard says controls have been placed on the Taranaki property, as with the site in Kerikeri where it was first detected.

"There are no movements of plants or other risk materials off the site," Mr Yard says.

"We are now preparing to treat the location with fungicide and will begin the job of inspecting the area out to 500m from the infection site."

"As with Kerikeri, we'll be throwing everything at it to attempt to control it, but we are realistic that it is a huge challenge, given how readily the spores are spread by the wind."

It is suspected that myrtle rust was likely carried on the wind from Australia, where the infection is widespread. 

Information about myrtle rust via the Department of Conservation

  •              Individual myrtle rust spores cannot be seen with the naked eye; however large amounts of spores grouped together are visible as yellow rust bodies.
  •             The identifying signs of myrtle rust are purple/black splotches or patches (lesions) with yellow dots on leaves and stems. These can appear as bright yellow powdery eruptions on leaves. Leaves and stems especially when young can become buckled or twist and die off.
  •             Severe infections can kill infected plants.
  •             By the time lesions are visible, spores are already dispersing. This makes eradication difficult as the disease is already spreading by the time it can be seen.

Touching the plant's infection willl help spread the disease. Do not touch it. Wash any tools and clothing that may have come into contact with the infection, and report the infection to MPI on 0800 809 966.