Tau fly find under investigation

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Media contact: MPI media phone

Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating a find of a single Tau fly in a surveillance trap in the Auckland suburb of Manurewa.

The fly was collected from a trap in the afternoon of Thursday 21 January and it was formally identified later that day.

MPI’s Manager Surveillance and Incursion Investigation, Brendan Gould, says only the one fly has been trapped and this does not mean New Zealand has an outbreak of the Tau fly.

“We have a significant number of traps in this area which were all checked yesterday. No other flies were found.

“This fly is a species normally found in South East and Southern Asia and is used to a more tropical climate. It’s very unlikely to be able to establish in New Zealand.”

Mr Gould says MPI has responded swiftly.

“We have teams in the field now setting additional traps to determine if other flies are in the area, and they will take actions to prevent spread out of the area if more flies are found.

“It is vital to find out if this fly is a solitary find or if there is a wider population in Auckland.

“Unlike the Queensland fruit fly this insect has a much more limited range of host material and has a preference for cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchini. Though capsicum, beans, passionfruit and melons are minor hosts.

“We’re not treating this lightly. While the Tau fly is a threat, it’s not as widely damaging as the Queensland Fruit Fly.

MPI has placed controls on the movement of certain fruit and vegetables in a defined circular area extending 1.5km from where the fly was trapped in Manurewa.

Detailed maps of the controlled area and a full description of the boundaries, and full information about the rules are on www.mpi.govt.nz/tau-fly.

Pumpkin, melon, cucumber, capsicum, zucchini, beans and passionfruit plants and fruit cannot be moved outside of the Controlled Area.

“These controls are an important precaution while we investigate whether there are any further flies present,” Mr Gould says.

“Should there be any more flies out there, this will help prevent their spread out of the area.

“Based on our experiences with Queensland fruit fly last year, our operations have shown that public support is vital to success and we have always had terrific community buy-in,” Mr Gould says.

“We appreciate this will be inconvenient for the many people living in and around the Controlled Area, but compliance with these restrictions is a precaution to protect our horticultural industries and home gardens.

“It is likely the restrictions will be in place for at least two weeks.”

The most likely way these flies can arrive in New Zealand is in fresh fruit and vegetables.

MPI has strict requirements on the importation of fruit and vegetables to minimise this risk. Air and sea passengers are prohibited from bringing fresh fruit and vegetables into the country. MPI has to date been highly successful in keeping this insect threat out of New Zealand crops.

“This latest find demonstrates the benefit and effectiveness of MPI’s lure-based surveillance trapping network as an important part of our biosecurity system. The network involves some 7,600 traps set nationwide and checked on a regular basis.

By setting traps for these pests, we’re able to detect their presence early, have assurance about exactly where the problem is located and respond faster and more effectively where finds are made.

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