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Published: 2012-07-02 00:00:00

The recent Queensland fruit fly scare in Auckland is a classic example of the environmental and economic threats posed by pests, says Waikato Regional Council.

The council is working to raise public awareness of these threats during national Biosecurity Month 2012.

“Council staff are at the forefront of preventing animal and plant pests from entering our region and controlling them when they are established here,” said council biosecurity group manager John Simmons.

“The Auckland fruit fly scare highlighted the important role of biosecurity in protecting industry, the environment and the economy.”

In recent years the council has worked with other agencies in successfully defending the region against three ‘new arrival’ pest plants: bat-wing passion flower, Chinese knotweed and sea spurge.

Sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias) was found on a beach near Aotea Harbour in February this year. This sand dune invader probably arrived on ocean currents from Australia, where it has caused major environmental problems at many beaches.

The invasive vine Chinese knotweed (Persicania chinensis), found in two gardens in Hamilton in July 2011, was contained and destroyed. The vine spreads rapidly and smothers native plants, forest areas and horticulture operations.

Bat-wing passion flower (Passiflora apetala) was found in a contained site at Thames in 2010. It is a very invasive climber, with the ability to smother, shade and strangle its host plants. It is a threat to New Zealand’s environment and has the potential to impact on economic, biodiversity, social and cultural values.

“The regional council’s biosecurity work is focussed on eradication and control of the worst pests. As a result, our native plants and animals, tourism, agricultural and horticultural industries and our health all benefit,” Mr Simmons said.

“From helping tui and native bats in urban Hamilton through Hamilton Halo and Project Echo respectively, to controlling pasture weeds to increase farmers’ profits, biosecurity benefits all of the community in some way.”

The council is running a Biosecurity Month quiz so people can test their knowledge and go in the draw to win some great prizes. Visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/biosecurity to enter, and for more on the council’s biosecurity work, including practical information such as garden weed identification and control.