Myrtle Rust update 16 Feb

February 16

16/2/18 - A number of new finds since 9 February brings the total number of infected properties to 271, 14 more than the last report. 26 sites also had reinfections.

  Count Total Surveyed Prevalence
Ramarama: Lophomyrtus spp. 182 3,992 4.56%*
Pohutukawa, Northern rata, Southern rata: Metrosideros spp. 116 28,702 0.40%
Willow myrtle: Agonis flexuosa  5 368 1.36%
Monkey apple: Syzygium spp. 56 7,524 0.74%
Bottle brush: Callistemon spp. 10 6,044 0.17%
Gum: Eucalyptus spp. 1 3,583 0.03%
Manuka: Leptospermum scoparium 1 11,137 0.01%
Feijoa: Acca spp. 1 11,761 0.01%
Chilean Guava: Ugni Molinae 2 863 0.23%
Other 0 10,504 0.00%
Total 374 84,478 0.44


February 9

Since first detected in New Zealand about nine months ago, myrtle rust has been found in six North Island regions.

The fungus attacks members of the Myrtaceae family, also known as the myrtle family, which includes pohutukawa, ramarama, manuka, rata, lilly pilly, bottle brush, eucalyptus, and guava. Its microscopic spores can easily be spread large distances by wind, insects, birds, people or machinery.

As at 9 February, 257 sites across six regions are confirmed to have been affected: Northland (4), Auckland (39), Bay of Plenty (62), Waikato (29), Taranaki (115), Wellington (8).

Plants on which myrtle rust has been detected, and prevalence of the disease, include:

  Count Total Surveyed Prevalence
Ramarama: Lophomyrtus spp. 160 3,648 4.39%*
Pohutukawa, Northern rata, Southern rata: Metrosideros spp. 89 28,182 0.32%
Willow myrtle: Agonis flexuosa  4 368 1.09%
Monkey apple: Syzygium spp. 41 7,349 0.56%
Bottle brush: Callistemon spp. 10 5,818 0.17%
Gum: Eucalyptus spp. 1 3,517 0.03%
Manuka: Leptospermum scoparium 1 10,766 0.01%
Feijoa: Acca spp. 1 11,328 0.01%
Chilean Guava: Ugni Molinae 1 828 0.12%
Other 0 13,158 0.00%
Total 308 84,962 0.36

Field surveillance teams are out searching for signs of the disease and working to control it and slow its spread into new areas. However, it is too early to know exactly what will happen and how the disease might affect New Zealand. So far, the fungus appears to behave differently from region to region, and even plant to plant.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is starting to adapt its approach in regions where levels of infection are high and new infections are frequent. In these regions, properties with infected myrtles will be assessed case-by-case and, where appropriate, some property owners will be given responsibility for making decisions and managing their infected trees themselves. MPI is continuing to support them with information and advice, and, if needed, secure collection of potentially contaminated green waste.

  • Most infections have affected two particular myrtle species: lophomyrtus (ramarama – used widely for residential hedging) and metrosideros (pohutukawa).
  • Lower numbers of other myrtles have been affected, including syzgium (lilly pilly) and callistemon (bottle brush).
  • In the last couple of weeks, most finds have been in Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Waikato.
  • The most recent were reported on 1 February in Taranaki, affecting a range of myrtle plants – several varieties of pohutukawa and lilly pilly and ramarama.
  • Four-fifths have been found on private properties and smaller proportions on commercial properties, plant nurseries, public land, and schools.
  • Over the last month, the seven myrtle rust field surveillance teams have been deployed mainly in Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Auckland. They have also checked plants in the upper and western areas of the South Island; no signs of myrtle rust infection were found, which means that, for now at least, the disease appears to have affected the North Island only.

The myrtle rust fungus produces spores in warmer weather so it’s a good time to check your garden for any sign of it on your myrtle plants. Soft, new growth – leaves, buds, shoots and fruit – are especially susceptible. Look for:

  • bright yellow powdery eruptions on or underneath leaves
  • brown or grey fuzzy rust pustules or spore growth on or underneath leaves
  • leaves that are buckled, twisted or dying off.

Don’t touch the plants – even if there’s no visible infection, you might disturb and spread the microscopic fungus spores.
If you suspect you have an infected plant, take some photos, of the infection and the plant, and call the Biosecurity Hotline: 0800 80 99 66. They’ll tell you what to do next.

Not sure if you have any myrtles? Download and check through a list of plants in the myrtle family.

For more about what’s being done to control myrtle rust in New Zealand, visit MPI’s website.

February 2

The number of new finds since 26 January brings the total number of infected properties to 249. Of these, 22 have also had reinfections.

Plants on which myrtle rust has been detected, and prevalence of the disease, include:

  Count Total Surveyed Prevalence

Ramarama: Lophomyrtus spp.

160 3,648 4.39%*

Pohutukawa, Northern rata, Southern rata: Metrosideros spp.

89 28,182 0.32%

Willow myrtle: Agonis flexuosa 

4 368 1.09%

Monkey apple: Syzygium spp.

41 7,349 0.56%

Bottle brush: Callistemon spp.

10 5,818 0.17%

Gum: Eucalyptus spp.

1 3,517 0.03%

Manuka: Leptospermum scoparium

1 10,766 0.01%

Feijoa: Acca spp.

1 11,328 0.01%

Chilean Guava: Ugni Molinae

1 828 0.12%


0 13,158 0.00%
Total 308 84,962 0.36

*Disclaimer: The count, total surveyed and prevalence data for Lophomyrtus has been updated since the last stakeholder update 26 January 2018. There were 2986 infected Lophomyrtus on a single property in West Auckland, which has since been removed to prevent the data being unduly skewed by this one property.

Prevalence in this case is the percentage of total trees of that type surveyed that were positive for myrtle rust. Please note that the above figures have been updated since the last stakeholder update on the 26 January 2018.

January 26

Mrytle Rust finds have accelerated, the majority being on private and commercial properties. MPI continues to focus surveillance in the known infected areas where myrtle rust is known to be present, and high risk areas in Northland and the top of the South Island. DOC will undertake surveillance in targeted areas on public conservation land in other parts of the country from January to March 2018.

Organism management is taking place in the regions of Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Wellington. While removing infected trees is MPI's main tool to manage the response, the persistent nature of this fungal infection has led MPI to adjust this in certain areas. Where they consider local elimination of an infection isn’t feasible they use an approach, working with those involved with the property, to minimise spread beyond that location rather than remove infected trees.  In some cases Auckland and Taranaki infections are now being managed using this approach. 

Today's Stakeholder Update includes an anlysis of the numbers and types of plant surveyed.



Total Surveyed


  • Ramarama: Lophomyrtus spp.




  • Pōhutukawa, Northern rata, Southern rata: Metrosideros spp.




  • Willow myrtle: Agonis flexuosa 




  • Monkey apple: Syzygium spp.




  • Bottle brush: Callistemon spp.




  • Gum: Eucalyptus spp.




  • Mānuka: Leptospermum scoparium




  • Feijoa: Acca spp.




  • Chilean Guava: Ugni Molinae




  • Other









January 19

Total number of properties with Myrtle Rust now at 218, with 13 current sites with reinfections. The regions are Northland (4), Taranaki (101), Waikato (23), Bay of Plenty (50), Auckland (34) and Lower Hutt (6).

Read the MPI Situation Update for more detail.

January 11

The number of new finds since 21 December brings the total number of infected properties to 208. Four new sites have been confirmed in Taranaki, three in the Bay of Plenty, and one in Auckland.

The myrtle rust fungus has proven to be very aggressive in some New Zealand conditions, as a result MPI are adapting to a long-term management approach and redirecting resources to ensure they have the chance to minimise the impacts of myrtle rust in the longer term.

There is no change to the protocols in place for nurseries at this stage.

December 15

A number of new finds this week, the number of new finds since 7th December brings the total Restricted Places to 183.

Eight new sites have been confirmed in Auckland, largely centred around the Eastern Suburbs. A third site has also been confirmed in Lower Hutt, close to the first two sites. As well as these one new site was found in Bay of Plenty.

The majority of finds are on private property (155 of 183 confirmed sites).

MPI have indicated that they will change the way that they respond to new finds of the disease and are considering moving from response, to a long-term management plan.

NZPPI & MPI have visited many nurseries and held industry meetings in the affected regions over the last few weeks, providing updates and answering questions. Further meetings are planned.

December 1

A well-established incidence of Myrtle Rust on Lophomyrtus (Ramarama) has been found in Lower Hutt. Read the MPI media release here.

November 27

A second location of myrtle rust infection has been found in Auckland – this time in the city, on ramarama plants at a private property in St Lukes. Read the media release from MPI here.

November 23

Today MPI issued a statement about the spread of myrtle rust into the West Auckland region. This development is a significant event for our industry as the disease is now in an area of the country with a large concentration of nurseries. Myrtle rust may begin to spread into other regions over time and businesses that grow or sell Myrtacea species need to now begin to prepare to respond to this crisis.

As the disease becomes established in more regions, MPI has indicated that it may change its approach to managing this disease.  NZPPI will work closely with MPI to develop these management plans.  It is possible that these may focus on a regional response and the use of plant protection practices within nurseries.

Following today’s announcement, all businesses that grow, distribute or sell any Myrtacea species should begin to plan for the scenario that the disease affects their businesses, either directly or indirectly at some time in the future.

What to do

  • Be aware of the location of new infection sites, particularly within 10km of your nursery.  NZPPI can provide information up to date about these sites.
  • Continue to implement the myrtle rust management protocols and support your staff to follow the practices, even if you are not affected at the moment.
  • Plan for your first response in the event that you find myrtle rust in, or near your nursery.
  • Talk and share information with other nurseries and with your customers.  It is important to build trust.
  • Be prepared with accurate information for your customers and the public.
  • Let NZPPI know what is happening and how we can help.
There is significant interest and concern about myrtle rust within the community.   Plant producers and nurserymen have an important role to play in keeping the public informed with expertise and accurate information.  Keep up to date via our newsletter updates and by checking the NZPPI website.

NZPPIs work

The NZPPI team has worked tirelessly throughout this year to help businesses that have been affected by myrtle rust.   This work has been widely acknowledged as it has benefited the nursery industry and the community. We are committed to continuing this work as the crisis develops.  The spread of this disease may be out of our control, but there is still a lot that we can do to minimise its impact.  

We need your support and commitment to enable us to do this.

If you grow or sell any of the Myrtacea species, and are not currently an NZPPI member, we ask that you take steps to join NZPPI now before you are affected.  Our goal is for a united industry that has the capability, industry support and funds to undertake the work that needs to be done.   We can’t do this work on our own - we need your help and contribution.

Contact us for more information or check out our membership page here.

October 2017

1. Myrtle rust – summary of the current situation
There are currently 122 confirmed sites in Northland, Taranaki, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, where myrtle rust has been detected. All these sites have been treated, with infected plants removed, and will be resurveyed in the future.

Both the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Department of Conservation (DOC) continued surveillance over winter, with focus on determining if myrtle rust is more widespread. Myrtle rust was not found in new regions or on Public Conservation Lands, but it was found to be more widespread in two of the existing regions, northern Taranaki and Te Kuiti/Otorohanga.

You may have also seen a renewed marketing campaign by MPI in recent weeks. This advertising campaign sends important messages to the public to assist with the surveillance, especially during the change in seasons.

The latest MPI situation update can be accessed here

2. What you need to know about myrtle rust heading into spring
With the wet spring many of us are having, and as it warms up, we’re fast approaching ideal conditions for myrtle rust. It’s critical we all stay vigilant, on the lookout for symptoms and report any suspicious symptoms to MPI.
The key things we all need to know are:

  • Government-led efforts to deal with myrtle rust in months and potentially years ahead will continue to be intensive (more on this below)
  • The role of Plant Producers and Industry Partners in this effort remains critical
  • Continuing to be vigilant by implementing NZPPI Myrtle Rust Protocols is the key thing you can do to protect your business and play your part.

3. Minor changes to NZPPI Myrtle Rust Protocols – stay vigilant!
Only minor changes have been made to the myrtle rust protocols to reflect the change in season and MPI’s view on risk. The key changes are:

  • Clarifying that feijoa plants are no longer considered host material by MPI (read “MPI puts Feijoas in the clear" article), and feijoa plants should be treated like any other non-host plants; that is, grown in accordance with sound nursery hygiene and crop protection best practices.
  • Moving to application of fungicides at fortnightly intervals, or otherwise following label recommendations (the rate of fungicide application was reduced over the winter/dormant period for myrtle rust).

Please continue with nursery inspections, preventative programmes and transport protocols. The protocols, fact sheet, images and videos are all available on the NZPPI website for your use.

A reminder also that moving myrtaceae plants or green waste (with the exception of feijoa) out of the Controlled Area is illegal. Plants that are carried in sales vans or plant transporters that enter the controlled area and are planning to transit through must not make deliveries or stops within the Controlled Area other than as required by law and materials must be contained and/or transported in an enclosed vehicle. A map of the controlled area and full information on legal restrictions that apply is available here.

4. Why continued vigilance matters - Protecting your business and NZ

NZPPI’s Myrtle Rust Protocols aredesigned to be practical, protect our businesses and reduce risk we inadvertently spread myrtle rust through plant movements. They are endorsed by MPI.

It’s worth reflecting for a moment on what’s happened. We all know hundreds of millions of plants are routinely moving around the country each year (with the usual seasonal fluctuations). And such movements can be from one end of the country to the other within 24hrs – we’re efficient! MPI’s view ‘that the potential for rapid and long distance spread of myrtle rust through such plant movements is high’ is fair enough.

Yet this hasn’t happened! We’ve successfully kept such spread in check. We’re the experts that have picked up and reported myrtle rust early. The first detection of myrtle rust on the mainland was of course in a Kerikeri nursery. NZPPI protocols were implemented within 48 hours. Then within weeks it was found in Taranaki by a localized cluster of nurseries (plus one direct link to a Te Kuiti nursery) and one garden retailer. There have been no more finds in nurseries since then nation-wide, despite targeted nursery surveillance by MPI’s surveillance experts and extensive monitoring by you and your skilled staff. Subsequent finds have overwhelming been in residential properties, and including in the tops of mature trees, leading MPI to conclude this is likely a wind-blown event.

As an industry we caught myrtle rust early and acted decisively, which has been widely recognised and enabled us to avoid potentially crippling movement controls and minimize other business impacts.

What MPI had to say on this……
“I would like to thank New Zealand Plant Producers Inc. for the development of the approved protocols. This should not require a significant change in the way the nurseries do business. It will, however, give them long term certainty about how to effectively manage any risk associated with their business. Importantly, it will enable them to continue business and lessen the impacts on the local economy. ”
GEOFF GWYN, MPI’s Director Response referring to NZPPI’s work in the Myrtle Rust Biosecurity Response

5. What comes next – what to expect in coming months and beyond?
As plants people we’re well used to managing rusts and other disease issues, and we all recognise myrtle rust is likely here to stay. It follows that longer term spread of such an airborne rust would be inevitable. A lot of preparatory work has gone into preparing for this scenario – long term management (LTM) - and this is now rapidly taking shape. You can be assured NZPPI is actively involved in this, and we’ll keep NZPPI members updated as decisions are made.

Under such a LTM scenario we could reasonably expect continued focus on “slowing the spread” of myrtle rust. Overseas experience and expert advice suggests this is achievable. Slowing spread delivers opportunity to get ahead of the game – for example, a multi-million dollar research programme is already underway to deliver better management tools, accelerate breeding for resistance, and deliver knowledge and other solutions that will reduce impacts to New Zealand. This will take time to deliver outcomes. And there’s significant value for many stakeholders in deferring impacts, including financial value.>

And we can reasonably expect continued focus on managing risks associated with the plant trade (if anything that focus is likely to intensify). In the short term that is likely to include continued focus on implementing NZPPI Myrtle Rust Protocols, as well as continued MPI-led implementation of targeted movement restrictions that apply to myrtle rust host plants. In the medium- to long-term this is likely to transition to a practical “biosecurity accreditation” scheme for our industry, which provides for safe movement of our plants and gives us greater certainty (for myrtle rust and other biosecurity issues). An announcement with details on the latter – development of a “NZ Plant Production Biosecurity Scheme” - will be made in coming weeks.


July 2017

The list of infected sites continues to grow – 91 as of Monday. Most sites are private gardens (75), with Lophomyrtus (55) and Metrosideros (35) the most frequently infected species, and the Te Puke (21) and north Taranaki (64) areas accounting for most of detections.

MPI continues to focus surveillance in the areas where myrtle rust is known to be present. In the north Taranaki region, surveillance has extended out to the Controlled Area boundary including Inglewood and Stratford. The Controlled Area extends 10km from known infected sites in Waitara and includes New Plymouth city, Spotswood and Inglewood. The map of the controlled area is available here

DOC are undertaking surveillance in target areas in other parts of the country.

Catherine Duthie, MPI Incident Controller talks myrtle rust on Radio New Zealand (19/7/17)

Myrtaceae Fungicide Treatments in Winter

Now that winter’s upon us (as if we need reminding after last week!) we’ve updated our Myrtle Rust Nursery Management Protocol to provide for monthly fungicide treatment of myrtaceae stock in nurseries and verified this with MPI. The protocol now specifies a regular fungicide treatment programme across all myrtaceous plants:

  • Fortnightly from spring to late autumn (October to May)
  • Monthly in winter (June to September)

Continued Vigilance Important Please

While it’s anticipated that winter conditions will suppress rust symptoms and spread, recent new detections show that continued vigilance, crop inspections and adherence to NZPPI’s myrtle rust protocols is crucial. There have been no new detections in nurseries for some time (so far there have been just eight). This is a credit to all who have acted early with nursery inspections, preventative programmes and transport protocols.

Controlled Area Movement Controls

Moving myrtaceae plants, fruit or green waste out of the Controlled Area is illegal.

This includes any plants that are carried in sales vans or plant transporters that enter the controlled area and are planning to transit through.

This came to light recently when myrtaceae plants in a nursery sales van (from outside the area) had to be removed from the van before it left the Controlled Area!

If you are visiting or travelling through the Controlled Area, do not carry myrtaceae plants.

Growing, Selling and Planting Myrtaceae

It’s OK to grow, sell and plant myrtaceae varieties through most of New Zealand. Restrictions are in place only in the north Taranaki Controlled Area, and a few other places where MPI have issued formal notices.

It is however essential that all nurseries, transporters and retailers follow the NZPPI myrtle rust protocols for plants susceptible to myrtle rust. The protocols help industry members ensure the risk of our businesses becoming infected or distributing myrtle rust is managed to the best of our ability. MPI also have guidance for growers, beekeepers, orchadists (including feijoas) and home gardeners.

Spring and beyond

Come spring, plant producers and retailers will be at the forefront of the effort to determine exactly where the disease is present and the scale of the outbreak. Growing conditions will again be ideal for the fungus with many vulnerable young plants in sheltered, warm and damp environments, and if myrtle rust has spread beyond where it is currently known to be present, there’s a good chance it will be a member of our industry who will see it first. MPI’s also working on contingency plans, and NZPPI has provided feedback on options being considered for the transition to long term management should it become apparent that the rust has spread well beyond areas where it is currently known to be.


myrtle rust manuka
Myrtle rust on manuka

myrtle rust lophomyrtus
Myrtle rust on Lophomyrtus

myrtle rust spores
It's easy to spread myrtle rust spores (source Australia)