29 Apr 2016

NZ First calls for more action on velvetleaf

1:33 pm on 29 April 2016

New Zealand First is urging the government to boost its biosecurity response and do more to search for invasive pest weed velvetleaf.

Velvetleaf in flower

Velvetleaf in flower Photo: Supplied / Waikato Regional Council

Velvetleaf came in to the country in contaminated fodder beet seed and has been found in Waikato, North Canterbury, Central Otago, Southland, Whanganui, Ruapehu and Horowhenua districts.

New Zealand First's list MP based in Invercargill, Ria Bond, has called on Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy to activate Enhanced Taskforce Green to help in the search and help prevent the weed spreading further.

The ministry says it has found velvetleaf on more than 100 properties throughout the country.

Ria Bond

Ria Bond Photo: FACEBOOK

Enhanced Taskforce Green can be activated during adverse events and involves teams of unemployed locals paid to help out.

Velvetleaf was a "hot topic" with people throughout Southland worried about its future impact.

"What this velvetleaf does is it sucks out the nutrients to their crops that they're going to feed their cows on, so therefore it's going to have a knock-on effect," Ms Bond said.

"It can (also) sit there in (an animal's) belly and still compete for the nutrients...inside of the gut."

The weed stands well above a beet crop, and has distinctive large, velvety, heart-shaped leaves.

Velvetleaf seeds can remain viable for up to 60 years.

However, the Minister for Primary Industries said there was no need to activate Enhanced Taskforce Green to help in the search and destroy mission for velvetleaf.

Mr Guy said the only remaining searches were in Southland and the Southland Regional Council was aiming to complete them by the end of today.

"With the completion of inspections, we are moving into the next phase which is the development of a long term management plan for velvetleaf," Mr Guy said.

"The aim of this strategy is to contain and potentially reduce the spread of this pest, and eventually move towards elimination in some areas if possible."

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