The organisation that wants to ban the Easter Bunny has now set its sights on the Christmas tree. The New Zealand Biosecurity Institute doesn't want to ban the tree but would like people to see it as the holiday symbol representing the good and the bad sides of biosecurity in New Zealand.
Institute President Darion Embling said carefully managed conifer trees are an asset to the country but left uncontrolled they pose a large threat to production and native ecosystems. In parts of New Zealand, conifer trees have gone wild and now require millions of dollars and thousands of hours to control.
Over the summer we would like people to think of the two branches of the traditional Christmas tree; the "Good" managed economic resource and the "Bad" uncontrolled weedy plant.
It's an ideal symbol for what our members do every day they go to work.
He said it's an equally appropriate symbol because New Zealand's own native "Christmas tree" – the pōhutukawa could be under threat from several international pest fungus species, such as Myrtle Rust (Puccinia psidii). These haven't reached New Zealand shores yet, but if they did they would pose a significant threat to iconic natives such as pōhutukawa, rata and mānuka.
"Myrtle rust has the potential to get here on people, cargo and freight, which is a pathway we can try to control at the border, or on the wind, which is a pathway we have no control over," Mr Embling said.
"It's slowly getting closer and is now causing major problems in Australia and could blow across the Tasman Sea on prevailing westerly winds..
Myrtle rust 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.
He said another concern is Argentine ants which are on the march throughout the country. They too can be spread in clothing and camping equipment.
Mr Embling said the Institute has a few simple messaged for people this summer:
- check your boots and outdoor equipment for hitch hikers, dirt and fungal spores
- check, clean, and dry all equipment that has been in contact with waterways
- dispose of garden waste or aquarium contents in the compost or at an appropriate waste management site.
"Having pets desexed and prevented from roaming is also a very helpful measure," he said.
" We want people to take this time to think about what they can do to stop the spread of pest animals and plants, and diseases."
The NZ Biosecurity Institute is the professional training and networking organisation for people involved in biosecurity. Its 450 members work for research organisations, educational institutions, regional councils and government departments.
All are involved in protecting NZ from invasive species.
Every year the Biosecurity Institute's 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," Mr Embling said.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
For comment please contact: Darion Embling, President, New Zealand Biosecurity Institute: (07) 859 0790 | 021 605 029