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Latest myrtle rust science to be shared at symposium

THE 2019 Myrtle Rust Science Symposium in Auckland on September 9 and 10 will bring together organisations passionate about safeguarding and sustaining New Zealand’s precious myrtles for future generations.

First detected in New Zealand in 2017, myrtle rust has spread widely across key parts of the North Island, including parts of Tairawhiti, and in the north and west of the South Island.

The invasive disease has the potential to damage many ecologically, economically and culturally significant tree species, including pohutukawa, rata and manuka.

“Investment in science is helping increase understanding of the disease and management options,” said Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) manager of science policy Naomi Parker.

“More than 100 delegates are expected to attend the two-day event, including researchers, science funders, central and local government, Maori, environmental and industry groups,” Dr Parker said.

Biosecurity New Zealand, part of MPI, has organised the symposium with support from the Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group and Department of Conservation.

“The symposium will discuss the latest research progress and what it means for the organisations working to limit the impact of myrtle rust,” Dr Parker said.

“We will also hear about what’s happening on the ground to manage the disease and what is needed from the science.”

Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group (SSAG) chair Ken Hughey, the Department of Conservation’s chief science adviser, said a key aim of the symposium would be to strengthen the myrtle rust community so stakeholders continued to communicate and share research, insights and new work.

“Encouraging a collaborative community is an action coming out of the new myrtle rust science plan, which has been developed by the SSAG to guide what science will be most valuable for the management of myrtle rust.”

Dr Hughey said the myrtle rust science plan builds on research already under way and which will be shared at the September symposium.

“This includes the outcome of more than 20 research projects commissioned by Biosecurity New Zealand on subjects ranging from seed banking to integrating matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) alongside Western science to better understand the disease and its impacts on native taonga.”

Speakers will also share updates on the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research “Beyond myrtle rust” programme and the recently established programme Nga Rakau Taketake – Saving our Iconic Trees, administered by New Zealand’s Biological Heritage Nga Koiora Tuku Iko national science challenge.

Invasive: The symposium aims to encourage the sharing of myrtle rust research and insights. File picture