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Public encouraged to report suspected myrtle rust

Anyone who discovers possible myrtle rust infections on their property should immediately notify Council to help prevent further spreading.

The best way to report it is using the GDC Fix app, which allows users to accurately map the location and attach photos, or alternatively call customer services.

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease that affects plants in the myrtle family including eucalyptus, mānuka and pōhutukawa. The Ministry for Primary Industries identifies it in the top three biosecurity threats to NZ.

There have been multiple occurrences of myrtle rust in Gisborne city – all ramarama trees inspected by Council biosecurity staff in the last week were found to be infected.

It was also discovered at the Women’s Native Tree Nursery in Riverdale.

Council’s principal scientist Dr Murry Cave said biosecurity staff had visited other native tree suppliers in Gisborne and followed up on additional reports of myrtle rust north of Gisborne but those were found to be clear of the fungal disease.

A site inspection was carried out in Te Araroa over the weekend and the historic large pōhutukawa there is free of myrtle rust.

“At this stage the occurrences remain localised and vigilance from the public is crucial to preventing the disease from coming pervasive in the region,” Dr Cave said.

“If anyone is concerned they have trees infected with myrtle rust, they should let us know straight away. This will ensure it is followed up promptly and biosecurity staff can advise steps on its safe removal and disposal.”

Myrtle rust can affect all trees belonging to the broader myrtle species including Australian tea tree, rata, feijoa, bottle brush, guava, willow myrtle and monkey apple.

It generally attacks soft, new growth, including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers, and fruit, appearing as a browning of the leaves with bright yellow growth on the stems.

The spores are microscopic and can easily spread across large distances by wind, or from insects, birds, people, or machinery.

The MPI guide to identifying myrtle rust can be found here.