The pōhutukawa and rātā forests which once turned coastlines and hillsides crimson are unlikely to be seen again. The reasons for this are many.
Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease that affects plants in the myrtle family. Plants in this family include the iconic pōhutukawa, mānuka and rātā as well as some common garden plants such as ramarama and lilly pilly.
If you think you’ve seen myrtle rust, don’t touch it, take a photo, and call 0800 80 99 66.
The first detection of the disease in mainland New Zealand was at a Northland nursery in early May 2017. Since that time it has spread throughout the North Island, and more recently to the South Island.
There has been an enormous operational effort but the windborne nature of the disease means that containment has not proved possible. MPI have now moved from intense surveillance and the removal and destruction of host plants to one where they look to manage the disease over the long term.
The Australian brush tailed possum was introduced into New Zealand in 1837 to establish a fur trade. Inits native land the possum is up against dingoes, bush fires and less palatable vegetation, but in New Zealand conditions are so favourable it often breeds twice in one year.
It was estimated that the New Zealand possum population topped 70 million during the 1980’s and 90’s. Landcare Research now estimates that figure around 30 million, but the number has not been confirmed as the cost to do so would be better spent reducing possum numbers even further.
These so-called cute furry marsupials ravage the bush — it has been estimated they chew up seven million tonnes of vegetation a year.
The damage to native forests can be seen all too clearly in many areas. Possums ignore old leaves and select the best new growth. In some areas they have eaten whole canopies of rata, totara, titoki, kowhai and kohekohe.
Possums compete with native birds for habitat and for food such as insects and berries. They also disturb nesting birds, eat their eggs and chicks and may impact on native land snails.
Dairy and deer farmers have the added worry of possums spreading bovine tuberculosis. Possums are also a nuisance in suburban gardens, and sometimes even indoors.
Project Crimson and its programmes, Trees That Count and TREEmendous, recognise that the use of 1080 for pest control is a controversial topic. However, along with the majority of conservation organisations, we support the leadership of the Department of Conservation and Predator Free New Zealand on this topic.
This means that while 1080 is not without its drawbacks, we believe it is the best option New Zealand has right now in the fight against introduced predators.
Read more about 1080
Predator Free New Zealand provides advice and equipment for trapping predators. Check out their website for more information.