Clampdown on pest which could devastate horticulture industry

  • 14/09/2018

Biosecurity officials are promising to take tough action against cargo vessels believed to be infested with brown marmorated stink bug.

The risk season runs from September to April, when stink bugs from the northern hemisphere are most likely to crawl into cargo heading to New Zealand.

The pest has the potential to devastate the fruit, vegetable and wine industries, and could put a multi-billion dollar hole in our economy.

Federated Farmers Biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams said the stink bug is a 'scourge'.

"For arable and horticulture farmers, a scenario where a breeding population could get established here is a nightmare," she said.

Biosecurity New Zealand is making it clear infested ships are not welcome.

"Each arriving vessel will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis", said Director of Border Clearance Services Steve Gilbert.

"However, if our officers ultimately determine a ship is infested with stink bug, it will be prevented from discharging its cargo and directed to leave New Zealand," he said.

Last season, biosecurity officers intercepted more than 2500 individual stink bugs at the border, mainly on vessels and cargo.

Biosecurity New Zealand introduced fogging as an emergency treatment option in February following a spike in stink bug detections in vehicle carriers from Japan.

"We have also introduced a very low threshold for determining contamination. If we find a single bug, we will thoroughly investigate whether the entire vessel is contaminated." said Mr Gilbert.

"As with previous stink bug seasons, there will also be increased surveillance and inspection of arriving vessels and cargo from countries with established stink bug populations.

"This is about ensuring the dangerous pest does not get a chance to establish in New Zealand." he said

Mr Gilbert says biosecurity rules have changed for this season, making it compulsory for certain types of cargo to be treated before arrival to remove the risk of hitchhiking stink bugs.

New tool on the way

Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will allow a controlled release of the samurai wasp, if the brown marmorated stink bug makes its way into New Zealand.

Allan Pollard, chairman of the brown marmorated stink bug council, was happy with the announcement but believes there is a long way to go.

"The next step is to look at where we can source sufficient populations of the samurai wasp, and also the sort of permissions that we'll need to bring the wasp in if it's required." he said.

Studies overseas have shown the samurai wasp can destroy over 70 percent of the eggs in a stink bug egg mass.

Watch the full interview with Allan Pollard above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE 

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