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New Zealand prepares for worst case myrtle rust scenario

Staff Writer |
Myrtle rust has already been found on 25 properties in New Zealand - two in Waikato, three in Northland and 20 in Taranaki.

The fungal disease is found on plants such as pohutukawa and manuka.

Hauraki DOC senior ranger, Nicholas Hamon, said DOC was preparing for the worst by collecting the seeds of the treasured natives.

"It's absolutely something that people should be vigilant for. Obviously the government is taking it very seriously with collecting seeds," he said.

"A lot of our coastal pohutukawa have already been lost on the peninsula through possum browse, so there're big segments of our coastline actually devoid of pohutukawa now. And to lose those last big segments would just be a tragedy, an absolute tragedy. There's a lot at stake with this."

Whitianga DOC staff were hanging from a helicopter to collect the seeds this week in some remote regions, such as the Moehau Range at the top of the Coromandel, he said. Whitianga staff are collecting seeds from varieties of rata, mistletoe, kanuka, manuka and pohutukawa at six sites.

"They are ensuring that we have a seed bank of seeds from this generation of trees so that if the worst should happen," Hamon said.

"If myrtle took over the peninsula, and it was actually 90 per cent of our pohutukawa lost, we've got that genetic strain stored from the peninsula pohutukawa to replace them. We don't have to bring it from the South Island or Northland, because they're quite different."

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