3 Feb 2020

Kiwigrowers to help pay for $18m Queensland fruit fly response

9:40 am on 3 February 2020

Kiwifruit growers will fork out around a million dollars toward a year-long operation to eradicate the Queensland fruit fly.

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A sign in Auckland in February 2019, just after the outbreak. Photo: RNZ / Catherine Walbridge

An $18 million biosecurity response in Auckland finished on Friday, with New Zealand declared once again free of the pest.

The total cost will mostly be covered by the government, but industry groups will also have to chip in.

Kiwifruit Vine Health, an industry-funded biosecurity organisation, said it would put forward around $1 million.

"It's not something that you want to spend every day but probably a better way of looking at it is the value that's come out of that spend for our industry and all of the other horticultural industries."

The biosecurity response was triggered in the Auckland suburb of Northcote in February 2019, after a Queensland fruit fly was detected in the area.

The fly is a serious pest that could harm a range of fruit crops in New Zealand.

No detections in six months

Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson, Cath Duthie, said during the operation nearly 6000 thousand homes were put under controls restricting the movement of certain produce and 1.5tonnes of fruit collected from the area was inspected.

Dr Duthie said in total, 10 male flies were detected, but biosecurity officials found no evidence of a breeding population.

She said there had not been any detections in the past six months and it had now ended its fruit fly operation.

"It's now been six months since a fly was last trapped in the area, and this, along with an intensive baiting programme throughout the spring and the inspection of hundreds of kilos of fruit without a find, has given us confidence there is currently no breeding population of the Queensland fruit fly in Northcote."

Dr Duthie said the Controlled Area was now lifted and there are no longer restrictions on moving fruit, vegetables and green waste. The biosecurity wheelie bins that have dotted the neighbourhood would now be removed and road signs will be dismantled.

"However our nationwide routine surveillance will continue with our system of 7800 fruit fly traps spread across the country and more than 4600 of these in the Auckland area. These traps are set for three exotic fruit fly species of concern. The Queensland fruit fly, Mediterranean fruit fly and Oriental fruit flies."

Dr Duthie said the operation has been a collaborative effort between Biosecurity New Zealand, horticulture industry partners, AsureQuality (MPI's operations provider), a number of local authorities and the community. It was the second fully cost-shared biosecurity response under the Government Industry Agreement, she said.

"All up, this response is likely to cost around $18 million which is a considerable sum of money. However, when you balance this with the significant management and trade impacts on New Zealand's multi-billion dollar horticulture industry, it's a sound investment."