Wellington City Council Environment Partnership Leader Tim Park says until recently myrtle rust was only thought to be present in the upper-North Island, making its arrival in Wellington region particularly concerning.
“Myrtle rust is a fungal disease which can seriously effect pōhutukawa and rata, which are a significant part of Wellington’s sense of place, particularly around Christmas time.”
“We need the public to report any suspected sightings of myrtle rust to MPI so we can catch it before it spreads. Hopefully, we can keep it out of the city and keep our Christmas crimson.”
“If you think you have seen myrtle rust, please take a photo, while taking great care not to touch it, and contact the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 80 99 66.”
“Also, please check any plants that you have in your garden or any that you may have planted in your local reserve as a part of our Two Million trees programme,” says Park.
The disease could also affect other native plants which only occur naturally in New Zealand such as Bartlett’s rata and swamp maire. Other notable plants are known to be susceptible are lilly pilly, gum trees and bottle brushes.
Crown Research Institute Scion has developed a smartphone app to help people report myrtle rust and plants in the myrtle family. It can be found by searching “Myrtle Rust Reporter” in Google Play or the app store. The app is bilingual and contributes information to a public database of nature observations.