Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that poses a considerable risk to members of the myrtle plant family such as mānuka, rātā and pōhutukawa.

Myrtle rust cc

Fortunately there’s plenty the public can do to help protect our plants, as well as the industries associated with them.

The first confirmed case of myrtle rust in New Zealand was discovered at a nursery in Kerikeri in May. Since then, over 20 separate cases have been confirmed — in Northland, Waikato and Taranaki.

This fungal disease has the potential to affect a wide variety of plants common in New Zealand — plants like rātā, kānuka, feijoa and gum trees. There are 104 different species of plant from the myrtle family currently growing in New Zealand.

A risk to our plants

It’s still unknown exactly how New Zealand’s plants will be impacted by myrtle rust. The disease has previously hit countries such as Australia, USA and China, but affects have varied.

Myrtle rust has the potential to infect a number of our plants. There’s even a chance we could lose members of the myrtle family. It could also endanger the industries that rely on these plants.

You can help

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have been working with the Department of Conservation (DOC), iwi, industry members, scientists and local authorities to respond to this outbreak. They also need the public’s help.

Here’s what you can do if you find plants showing signs of myrtle rust:

  • Don't touch it. That would help to spread the disease.
  • Take a photo if you can.
  • Call the MPI Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

For more information and regular updates about myrtle rust, visit the MPI website here.