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Source: Auckland Council

Myrtle Rust has been discovered for the first time on Aotea/ Great Barrier Island, infecting a self-seeded Pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa).  

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that can infect hundreds of species in the plant family Myrtaceae, which in New Zealand includes such species as mānuka, pōhutukawa, rātā and kānuka. Once established on a host tree or shrub, it destroys new growth and soft tissues, in some cases, eventually killing the plant. Fortunately, pōhutukawa has not been badly affected in the Auckland region to date.

The disease has been found across most of the North Island and localised areas of the upper South Island and the wind-borne dispersal mechanism meant that the recent discovery on Aotea / Great Barrier was not a matter of if, but when.

Aotea / Great Barrier Local Board chairperson Izzy Fordham applauds the efforts of the conservation community in being vigilant in their reporting of Myrtle Rust observations on the official Myrtle Rust Reporting channel, iNaturalist and encourages Aotea residents to continue to do so.

“While possibly inevitable the local board, like many on the island, are really sad to hear about this development and it just shows you how easily it can happen.

She adds people can also contact the local biosecurity team at the service centre if they have questioned about any suspected pests, be it flora or fauna or phone them 09 4290 258.

Auckland Council’s Natural Environment Delivery Manager, Phil Brown confirms “Auckland Council’s Environmental Services team and the Department of Conservation’ are assessing the site to implement an appropriate management response which may include removing infected material to protect other plants”.

Kirsty Prior, Aotea DOC Operations Manager says: “The Department of Conservation is on high alert across the island and is yet to confirm any further infections on Public Conservation Land. Myrtle Rust has not been confirmed for the Mokohinau Group at this stage.”

Myrtle rust attacks leaves, starving plants of food until they die. With a special fondness for ramarama, pohutukawa, feijoa, kanuka, manuka and rata, the fungus puts many of our native species under threat.

What to do if you think you see Myrtle Rust

  • Don’t touch the plant or come into close contact where you may inadvertently transfer the rust to your clothing or gear
  • Take an image of the plant, including infected leaves, or other areas of the plant and a close-up of the spores.
  • Submit your images to the iNaturalist website- experts will confirm the infection.

For more information visit the council’s website Protect plants from myrtle rust (aucklandcouncil.govt.nz) and Myrtle Rust or biosecurity@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz. 

MIL OSI