ANIMAL EPIDEMIC, PLANT & ANIMAL PESTS

RISK
Hawke’s Bay is known for as being a healthy environment for farming of sheep, cattle and diary as well its production of fresh fruit, vegetables, wine, and forestry.

This makes us very economically dependant on primary production so any serious outbreak of pests or diseases that affect these industries if not controlled or avoided, will severely affect the regional economy.

The consequences of such an outbreak is loss of crops and or livestock leading to a loss of production, loss of oversees markets, general economic downturn, and greater reliance on welfare agencies. The effects of an outbreak may occur over several months, and the region may take several years to recover.

We have a good biosecurity programme to respond to such threats in New Zealand, and this has helped to keep the country free of some of the worst pests and diseases such as foot and mouth, rabies, scrapie and snakes. But with the flow of goods and people across our borders increasing every year, and the widening scope of biosecurity, there is an ongoing risk posed by pests and diseases to the economy, environment and human health.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is the agency responsible for protecting New Zealand's unique biodiversity by managing risks to plant and animal health and animal welfare. MAF's powers for managing these outbreaks are provided in the Biosecurity Act 1993. MAF has plans, policies, and procedures in place to manage and control the serious pests and diseases that have the potential to seriously affect the horticultural, forestry, and agricultural industries that are important to Hawke’s Bay.

HISTORY
As early as 1884 the Government was concerned at the danger of introducing pests and diseases to the colony, and so passed one of the first pieces of legislation to protect BioSecurity in the country – that was the Codling Moth Act of 1884.

Many other protections became necessary as New Zealand’s economy grew, and travel increased, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s because of changes mainly brought about by speedy air travel between one country and another. Surface travel had also speeded up. Thus the protection in time and distance that New Zealand had formerly enjoyed was broken down. It was now possible for adults of pests separated from their hosts to travel as stowaways in aircraft arriving from overseas.

In addition many weeds and pests already established, started to cause problems requiring constant vigilance and ongoing control programmes.

The devastation caused by the last outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001 highlighted the potential implact of a disease outbreak. Such an outbreak would have worse economic and social effects in New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay.

But, while foot and mouth disease represents a worst-case scenario, there are countless other pests and diseases with the potential to seriously impact on the farms and forests that provide a large percentage of our export income.

For example abandoned or neglected orchards pose a real threat to the apple industry. Pests and diseases, such as including Codlin moth. (Cydia pomonella), Leafroller. (3 species), Black spot. (Venturia inaequalis), Powdery mildew, Fireblight and European canker (Nectria galligena) can cause severe damage and production loss. In some case they can also prevent the export of apples or significantly lower returns.

In December 1998 the southern salt marsh mosquito (Ochlerotatus camptorhynchus) was discovered in Napier. The mosquito is an aggressive day biter with the potential to cause significant nuisance effects for people, livestock and birds. It is a confirmed vector of Ross River Virus (RRV) in southwest Western Australia. If the southern salt marsh mosquito population had been left unchecked, future risks included the introduction of RRV to susceptible human populations and an epidemic of the disease. An eradication programme was carried out in Napier, Haumoana, Mahia, Porangahau and there have been no further finds of the Southern Saltmarsh Mosquito in these areas since.

didymo
Didymo on a river cobble stone (Photo: Biosecurity NZ)

History shows that whole industries, like forestry, horticulture and viticulture, can be seriously affected by microscopic plant diseases invisible to the naked eye. Even an innocuous looking aquarium plant, once it finds its way into the water system, can cause major problems by clogging lakes or blocking up hydro-power stations. For instance, a bug called Didymo, has been a concern in rivers in the South Island. It produces slime and stifles natural life - common name is 'river snot'. It can be spread by a single drop of water so agencies are working to prevent its spread to the North Island.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • If you find an animal (insect/spider etc) or plant or plant disease that you think is a biosecurity risk, call the Exotic Pest and Disease call the toll free, 24 hour emergency hotline: 0800 80 99 66 or access http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/pests
  • If you are in an industry that could potentially be affected by a biosecurity threat, make use of the Biosecurity NZ web page for information and alerts www.biosecurity.govt.nz