Velvetleaf search and destroy nears completion
The management of the pest weed Velvetleaf is entering a new phase as property searches across the country draw to a close.
Search and destroy activities have been conducted on more than 600 properties since March this year when velvetleaf was discovered in several regions.
Velvetleaf has been found in 11 regions on 215 properties associated with fodder beet to date.
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Director of Investigations, Diagnostics and Response, Veronica Herrera, says the operation has involved a large number of people including volunteers.
"It’s been a truly collaborative approach which has enabled us to get through a large number of properties.
"Regional council staff, industry experts, sector leaders and farmers have all contributed a huge amount of time and energy. The search and destroy operation has been hard, physical work.
"People have literally been trudging through vast areas of fodder beet and, in some cases, very rugged terrain in a bid to find and destroy velvetleaf plants.
"MPI would like to thank everyone involved including volunteers who have made a substantial contribution. All efforts have been greatly appreciated."
Dr Herrera says with the completion of inspections due this afternoon, the focus will turn to the development of a long term management plan for velvetleaf.
"MPI remains fully engaged in this process and we’ll be spearheading a nationally coordinated approach with the objective of containing and potentially reducing geographical spread over time. This may include local elimination in some regions.
"We are now developing a transition plan, in consultation and collaboration with key stakeholders, until a long term management plan is in place.
"Workshops will be held over the next few weeks where we will be seeking input on interim measure as well as long-term management.
"It is important that everyone involved in the management of velvetleaf remains focused on mitigating the associated biological risk until long term management is established."
Dr Herrera says MPI is continuing to investigate how contaminated fodder beet seed could have entered New Zealand and the beefed up interim border inspections to stop contaminated seed entering the country will remain in place in the interim.
"MPI has already established that some lines of fodder beet seed grown in Italy and pelletised in Denmark were contaminated with velvetleaf. These lines have been banned from entry into New Zealand.
"We continue to inspect seed from other sources to determine if any other lines are contaminated.
"In addition, the import requirements in the Import Health Standards will be reviewed in light of the learnings from this response, the inspections at the border, and the pathway assurance visit to the growing regions that is coming up in June."
Dr Herrera says in the meantime, the messages around managing velvetleaf remain the same.
"It’s imperative we don’t become complacent. Vigilance is the key to managing this. Landowners need to continue inspecting their properties for late-emerging velvetleaf and farmers should ensure their on-farm biosecurity measures are robust and enduring.
"This includes strict adherence to guidelines on machinery hygiene, feed management and stock movement that are all contained in our farm management plan.
"MPI will continue to manage the velvetleaf 0800 number (0800 80 99 66) and provide advice and material on managing velvetleaf. We are committed to ensuring the transition into long term management is as smooth as possible and look forward to working with the sector on the way forward."