New Zealand achieves world's first eradication of pea weevil

The pest threatened to put a major dent in our $130 million pea industry.
The pest threatened to put a major dent in our $130 million pea industry. Photo credit: CSIRO

A Government programme to wipe out the pea weevil has achieved a world first, with Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor announcing the successful eradication of the noxious pest from Wairarapa.

The announcement means the nearly four-year ban on pea plants and pea straw has now been lifted, and commercial and home gardeners can again grow pea plants and use pea straw as garden bedding material.

O'Connor said after two complete seasons of no new finds, the Government was confident there are no pea weevils remaining in Wairarapa, and so New Zealand is safe.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time a pea weevil population has been successfully eradicated anywhere in the world," said O'Connor. 

He said it showed that eradications can be achieved. 

"This Government is committed to attempting eradications wherever possible. In this situation we had a good shot at it because the destructive little insect was detected early and in a region with mountain ranges providing some natural borders.

"But more importantly - we had an outstanding level of awareness and support within the community for our approach to ban the growing of pea plants and pea straw. In doing this we removed the pea weevil's only food source, which caused the population to die out. It was straightforward and effective," he said.

Biosecurity New Zealand has been working with Wairarapa farmers since March 2016 to contain the pea weevil, which threatened to put a major dent in our $130 million pea industry. 

Damien O'Connor said the level of awareness and support within the community for the eradication programme was outstanding.
Damien O'Connor said the level of awareness and support within the community for the eradication programme was outstanding. Photo credit: Newshub

A network of trap crops was set up to flush out the pest so it could be destroyed before it completed its life cycle. Its last detection was in late 2017.

Wairarapa Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty praised the local industry and community for their support.

"I was involved right at the start before I was an MP, helping the growers set up a cropping strategy for the region to help them through. They were very worried about the future, and fair enough, no one had eradicated pea weevil before. 

"But we've done it which is just a massive achievement and is testament to the hard work of Biosecurity New Zealand and local growers," said McAnulty.

Carterton pea grower Karen Williams, who was appointed to the Pea Weevil Governance Group advising on the issue, said the ultimate result had been achieved.

"The decision to eradicate was hard on local pea growers so it is extremely pleasing to see their efforts rewarded," said Williams.

 She said the next step for the industry was to work with seed companies to bring back pea growing contracts.

The announcement comes just two weeks after Biosecurity New Zealand ended its fruit fly operations on Auckland's North Shore and lifted restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables in the Northcote area.

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