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Published: 2002-09-16 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has added its support to the government funded painted apple moth eradication programme.

At its Biosecurity Committee meeting, MAF Biosecurity representative Ian Gear outlined the programme which has just begun over Auckland and will continue into October.

He said the pest was a destructive Australian native, which in its own environment was suppressed by natural pathogens, but in New Zealand could have a major effect on native flora and forests. In the laboratory the moth ate a wide range of plants including 10 species of native brooms, three kowhai species, beech, acacia, roses, apples, plums and mangroves.

It was estimated that its economic cost to the country was $60 -$360 million over the next three years, and because of the devastation in the northern hemisphere New Zealand had an obligation internationally to inform trading partners if it was present. It could damage the apple trade by $3.6 million a year.

Because of the distance the larva could move an aerial operation was necessary, with supplementary ground control and host removals. The chemicals used would also wipe out other caterpillars and monarch butterflies but they would re-populate in 18 months.

Mr Gear said it was also necessary to get the message out that people could not take plants to other areas of Auckland and continued community support and co-operation was necessary. The spread of painted apple moth could have devastating effects in neighbouring Waikato if it were allowed to escape.