The recent Myrtle Rust Science Symposium discussed solutions to battle the invasive rust disease which is attacking
iconic species such as pōhutukawa and ramarama, and heard how myrtle rust has wiped out species from some areas across
Almost 100 delegates attended the two-day symposium in Auckland, which was organised by Biosecurity New Zealand (part of
the Ministry for Primary Industries), with support from the Department of Conservation and the Myrtle Rust Strategic
Science Advisory Group (SSAG).
The event brought together scientists, central government and representatives from groups working to combat myrtle rust
on the ground, including councils, iwi and the plant and honey sectors.
MPI’s Science Policy Manager Naomi Parker says science will be key to fighting myrtle rust, which is now widely
distributed across key parts of the North Island and in the north and west of the South Island. The disease, which is
carried on the wind, has the potential to damage many ecologically, economically and culturally significant native tree,
shrub and vine species, including pōhutukawa, mānuka, and non-natives such as feijoa.
“Speakers presented the findings of more than 20 research projects funded by Biosecurity New Zealand to better
understand myrtle rust and limit its impact. These ranged from novel surveillance techniques such as unmanned aerial
vehicles to scan the forest canopies for evidence of the disease, to the potential for microbes living in myrtles to
inhibit the rust, and the importance of partnering with Māori in both the research and management of myrtle rust.”
Dr Parker says the research reports, which will be published on the Myrtle Rust website (www.myrtlerust.org.nz
) over the coming weeks, were identified as priorities by the SSAG, which recently released a science plan
to guide research that will be most valuable for managing myrtle rust.
Ken Hughey, the SSAG Chair and the Department of Conservation Chief Science Advisor, says an important focus of the
symposium was how the science could be used by groups on the ground working to manage the disease, including DOC,
botanical gardens, nurseries and the honey businesses.
“There is no silver bullet when it comes to myrtle rust, but the Symposium was a fantastic opportunity to discuss
progress and future priorities, and to strengthen the community of stakeholders who are committed to combating this
Reports from the public are also helping scientists track the spread of myrtle rust and discover new host species. Visit www.myrtlerust.org.nz
to find out how to report myrtle rust.