Biosecurity Institute Warns of Hitchhikers Over Summer

People working to prevent the spread of invasive pests in New Zealand are asking holidaymakers to watch out for hitch hikers over the summer.

Key biosecurity sector interest group, the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute says its ongoing battle against unwanted animals plants and diseases will be helped greatly if people check and clean their gear before leaving and returning from the great outdoors this summer.

Institute President, Darion Embling said the threat or spreading an undesirable pest is very real this summer.

“Two very high profile invaders are mytle rust and kauri dieback. Both are on the rise at the moment.”

He said New Zealand’s native Christmas tree - the pōhutukawa is under threat, as well as other iconic natives such as rata and mānuka, from the recently arrived pest fungus myrtle rust.


“The kauri tree is already threatened with extinction by kauri dieback which can be spread by just a pinhead of soil, and you can't tell by looking whether a tree is infected or not.”

Myrtle rust, kauri dieback and other pests and diseases can be transported on clothing and equipment. That is why we are asking people to thoroughly check and clean outdoor clothing and equipment such as boots and tools to make sure there are no hitch hikers.

Mr Embling said the Institute has four biosecurity “please do’s” for people this summer:

  • clean your boots and outdoor equipment thoroughly and check for seeds, and dirt that could contain fungal spores

  • check, clean, and dry all equipment that has been in contact with waterways

  • remain on all tracks around kauri trees

  • dispose of garden waste or aquarium contents in the compost or at an appropriate waste management site

“At this time of year we also ask that people desex pets given as presents, and prevent them from roaming,” he said.

“We want people to take this time to think about what they can do to stop the spread of pest animals, plants, and diseases.”

These steps are very simple and yet will make a world of difference for our native species, and our agricultural industry,” he said.

The NZ Biosecurity Institute is the professional training and networking organisation for people involved in all aspects of biosecurity including pest animal and plant management, and border control. Its members work for research organisations, educational institutions, regional councils, government departments and private organisations. All are involved in protecting NZ from invasive species.

Mr Embling said every year Institute members spend hundreds of hours controlling or managing the risks to the economy and the environment of the effects of introduced pests.

"This is work which costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars each year through control, research and border control budgets. This money is coming out of all New Zealanders' pockets," he said.


For more information please contact: Darion Embling: (07) 859 0790 | 021 605 029 Media enquiries please contact: Chris Macann, Editor, Protect Magazine - The Magazine of the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute, phone 03 34 99 660 | 021 878 001

MYRTLE RUST (Puccinia psidii)

So far ramarama and pōhutukawa are the species most affected by Myrtle rust and these are the ones people should look at carefully.

People who think they have seen the distinctive yellow fungus, should not touch the plant or the rust, as this may spread it. If possible, they should get a good photo of the plant and the yellow patches, and call 0800 80 99 66.

KAURI DIEBACK (Phytophthora agathidicida)

The pathogen that causes kauri dieback, was only discovered in 2009. It can sense a kauri tree’s roots, and swim towards them using a tail-like flagella.

There is no cure for kauri dieback, and the disease kills most if not all the kauri it infects.