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Published: 2008-12-11 00:00:00

The pest plant privet – which has been linked to respiratory problems – is set to be more targeted by Environment Waikato after an updated regional pest management strategy (RPMS) was formally signed off by council today.

Under the previous RPMS, privet was designated a pest plant because of its potential effects on people's respiratory health.

Privet has an unproven association with several problems. Its pollen and scent are believed to contribute to respiratory disorders, such as asthma. A complainants’ survey carried out by EW provided the basis for the council earlier categorising privet as a public health threat. In addition, the berries of privet are poisonous and have caused sickness in children and stock.

Land owners were encouraged to remove privet but this was not compulsory in all situations.

However, EW would contact land owners and require removal if pest plant officers receive a valid health related complaint from someone living within 50 metres of privet plants on a private property, or a public area they frequently use, such as school grounds or parks.

Under the updated RPMS endorsed today, the same rules apply but EW will also require local councils, Ontrack and the NZ Transport Agency to remove privet in road reserves alongside public roads and railways. This requirement will be introduced in a staged process over several years with no expectation that total clearance will be achieved immediately. Again, the basis of action will be on health related complaints.

"We know from recent comments in the media that people are concerned about the spread of privet," said group manager biosecurity and heritage John Simmons.

"Our more proactive approach, under an updated RPMS, would be aimed at better protecting people’s respiratory health. While privet was not the only source of allergies, complainants have previously reported improvements in health once privet was removed.

"We are happy to give people advice on removing privet themselves, or to assist in approaching neighbours about removing privet."

The council’s pest plant officers can be contacted for advice on 0800 BIOSECURITY (0800 246 732).