Thursday, 21 March 2019


Myrtle rust identified in two Coromandel areas

The fungal disease known as myrtle rust has recently been identified in two separate locations on the Coromandel Peninsula. Myrtle rust affects plants within the myrtle family, such as pōhutukawa, rātā, feijoa, mānuka and more.

The disease impacts many areas of the world, particularly on the east coast of Australia, where it has spread rapidly. The first detection of myrtle rust in New Zealand was in May 2017, and it has now also been spotted in Colville and Whitianga.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) identified the two infected areas after some targeted surveillance. April 19 saw the disease spotted first on private land in Colville, and June 8 was when it was found again, this time at the site of the Thames Coromandel District Council office in Whitianga.

There were reportedly more than 20 plants infected across the two areas, including some pōhutukawa trees. Under instruction from MPI, the landowners, and TCDC have both respectively dealt with the problem. They have also been given advice and help on how to minimise spread throughout the affected properties.

Myrtle rust spores are extremely tiny, and can spread relatively easily. Wind, insects, birds, people, or machinery can all carry myrtle rust. It is likely the disease was introduced to New Zealand carried on strong winds from Australia.

The rust attacks young leaves, shoot tips, and young stems, causing a bright yellow/orange, powdery substance to form on the affected areas. It can then cause deformation of the plant and stunt its growth, eventually even killing the plant.

It is notoriously hard to control myrtle rust, so keeping the spread to a minimum is imperative. If you see a plant you believe to be infected with the disease, the best thing you can do is call the MPI Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66. If possible, take pictures of the infected area as well as the entire plant - this will help MPI identify the disease. Be very careful not to touch the plant, and make sure to wash your hands and clothes before tending to any other vegetation, as you may be carrying the disease on your person or clothing.



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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.