For the first time, Covid-19 subvariant BA.2.86 has been detected in New Zealand.
The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) found traces of it in wastewater samples taken earlier in September.
No-one hospitalised with Covid-19 is known to have the subvariant BA.2.86, also known as Pirola, which was first detected in late July in Denmark and Israel. It has also been detected in Switzerland, South Africa, US and UK.
Early evidence shows the Covid-19 vaccines available in New Zealand are effective against BA.2.86.
The World Health Organisation, which has announced BA.2.86 is a "variant under monitoring" (its lowest level of concern until more is known), says so far there is no evidence that it spreads faster or causes more severe illness.
Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health and ESR are monitoring this and other subvariants closely.
University of Otago professor Michael Baker said the subvariant showed the Covid-19 virus "is still capable of big evolutionary jumps, which is a further reminder that the pandemic remains unpredictable and is certainly not over".
"This new lineage represents an important new branch in the evolutionary tree of this virus that could continue to accumulate mutations that may make the virus more transmissible or harmful in the future."