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Fungal plant disease found in Auckland

Staff Writer |
The fungal plant disease myrtle rust has been found for the first time in Auckland, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said.

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A serious infection of several hundred Lophomyrtus plants has been confirmed on a commercial plant production property in the Waimauku area of west Auckland, said an MPI statement.

Myrtle rust is a fungus that attacks and can seriously affect myrtle species plants including some significant New Zealand native plants.

Myrtle rust response controller Catherine Duthie said that the facility owner reported suspected myrtle rust to the MPI and the infection was confirmed late Wednesday.

The team is working closely with the property owner to manage the infection in his plants which are grown for ornamental foliage.

"We've placed movement controls on the property to stop any myrtle plant material being moved off site and a team is in place today to start removing infected plants," Duthie said, adding that visibly infected plants will be safely destroyed as quickly as possible, and neighboring properties will be checked to identify any other potential infections.

"This is a significant new find given the new location and the extent of the infection," Duthie said, adding that she was expecting new infections to be identified as New Zealand heads into the warmer summer months and "the fungus begins to release spores again."