Kiwifruit under threat from disease

The government has reacted swiftly to notification of a disease which could threaten the $1.5 billion kiwifruit industry.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter is reassuring kiwifruit growers that the Government is treating a newly discovered vine infection on a North Island kiwifruit orchard very seriously, and is making all necessary resources available.

“Swift action is underway to confirm whether the vine infection is Psa, a bacterial kiwifruit vine disease.  MAF Biosecurity New Zealand is working closely with ZESPRI, Plant & Food Research and New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc.

“We are confident that robust testing will quickly determine the next steps.

“This potential risk to our kiwifruit industry is being taken seriously.  While the strain of the disease is not yet known, all necessary precautions have been put in place on the orchard to avoid the disease spreading. 

“It is imperative that a considered and responsible approach to this potential threat is taken by all primary sector stakeholders while the kiwifruit industry and Government works out exactly what we are dealing with,” says Mr Carter.     

MAF Biosecurity  said precautions have been taken to mitigate any risk the disease will spread while they wait test results to identify the infection.

All parties are taking the suspected threat seriously and are acting quickly to minimise the risk. If Psa is confirmed, MAFBNZ will work with ZESPRI and NZKGI to implement an agreed action plan.

In the meantime ZESPRI is working with the industry to advise of the current situation, understand how widespread the issue may be and encourage best practice orchard hygiene.

Psa carries no risks associated with human or animal health, and does not affect plants other than kiwifruit vines. This is about the health of the vines, not the health of the fruit.

Being an island insulates us to some extent from biosecurity risks. But it takes only one person carrying something infected into the country to put our plants or animals at risk.

This is why the screening at airports is so strict although not everyone appreciates the need for it.

We were at an agri-business dinner when the discussion turned to immigration procedures. One of the bankers at our table said he never declared he’d been on a farm even if he had because he didn’t want to be delayed.

The immediate and heated reaction from the farmers left him in no doubt over the the stupidity of doing that.

11 Responses to Kiwifruit under threat from disease

  1. robertguyton says:

    Now, about varroa. There was intense whining about containing that threat when Labour were in, how’s that going under National?

  2. Deborah says:

    Hmmm… remember when farmers imported rabbit calicivirus from Australia, illegally, and distributed it around the place. Apparently it was just fine to brush aside all the border controls then.

    I agree that we need to be highly vigilant with respect to border controls. All the time. No exceptions. It would be nice if farmers bought into that too.

  3. homepaddock says:

    You’re right Deborah – the farmers were very frustrated by inaction on pest control but that doesn’t excuse importing a disease illegally.

  4. robertguyton says:

    Don’t mention the mānuka blight that has and will continue to ruin our leptospermum scoparium en masse!
    Thank you farmers!

  5. JC says:

    “Don’t mention the mānuka blight that has and will continue to ruin our leptospermum scoparium en masse!”

    Nope. Manuka Blight reached its heights in the 1940s-60s period and has since then been progressively controlled by a fungal parasite.. to the point where Scion (Forest Research Institute, Doc and other NZ scientific authorities do not recognise it as a significant problem or threat.


  6. robertguyton says:

    Well that’s alright then. No point in pointing the finger at the farmers for importing a destructive organism that did enormous damage to one of our very important native trees.
    Several years ago there was great concern about the potential for a huge recurrence of the blight and the estruction it brings around Fiordland due to drought conditions.
    But that’s okay if Scion et al say the threat has passed, along with so much of our manuka.

  7. Fredinthegrass says:

    Another ‘self-centred’ uncaring selfish individual from the banking sector.
    No wonder we had a financial crisis.

    Bollocks, Deborah. Red tape had farmers at their wits end.
    It was a case of desperate situations calling for desperate measures.
    Pity it was only partially successful!!??

  8. JC says:


    There is absolutely zero knowledge of how the blight came to NZ. All we know it was first noticed in Canterbury in 1937. From there, farmers spread infected material around NZ in the 1940s to control a pest that was spoiling the war drive to produce meat and wool.

    By the 1970s it was all over.. the parasite was controlling the blight and farmers were again struggling to contain Manuka invasion on farmlands.

    As for Fiordland.. the blight does not tolerate wet conditions, and will die out as wet weather returns and the parasitical fungus takes over.. I understand this is a process called “nature”.


  9. robertguyton says:

    Interesting information JC. The ‘blighted’ manuka that I see throughout the Te Anau basin and through the Blackmount is a trifling matter then.
    As you say, it’s a pest – “From there, farmers spread infected material around NZ in the 1940s to control a pest” and if it was ‘spoiling the war drive’ then it had to go. That’s what we call ‘nature’ here in NZ.
    The ‘Manuka Invasion’ is something we all have to be alert to.

  10. bobux says:


    In 2006 the government decided that there was little chance of eliminating the varroa population in Nelson. Movement controls were retained for a further couple of years to slow the southward spread, but these were dropped as soon as varroa turned up in Canterbury.

    Despite a few vociferous opponents, the beekeeping industry largely accepted this as bowing to the inevitable. Confronted with the same situation, it is probably that a different flavour of governnment would have made the same decision. Beekeepers/farmers would have made exactly the same complaints, then got on with adapting to the change.

  11. JC says:

    I was, of course, talking about a well documented past. For example, in land use seminars in the 1970s, using anecdotal evidence and photos from farmers themselves, and national aerial photography, I was able to show areas of the Wairarapa hill country that had been cleared of manuka/kanuka up to five times without success.

    That speaks well of manuka’s tenacity despite the blight and human endeavor.. and the impracticality of clearing some of class 6 and 7 land which has low natural fertility and where the manuka was doing a great job of fighting erosion.


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