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Published: 2003-09-09 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to keep a ‘watching brief’ to ensure MAF undertakes full consultation and public awareness on next month’s Asian Gypsy Moth aerial spray operation in Hamilton.

This week’s Biosecurity Committee heard details of October’s Cabinet-approved spray operation from MAF’s response manager for the Hamilton operation, Mark Ross.

An 0800 number (0800 969696) is being set up to handle calls about health issues and operation plans, a video has been prepared for schools about avoiding contact with plants during aerial spraying, a 27-page information booklet will be delivered to 30,000 residents early next week and extensive advertising will be undertaken, he said.

A website will be launched shortly, along with children’s educational games.

A seven kilometre control area covering 1250 hectares has been set up for spraying in the Frankton area from October 6, giving a 1.6 km margin from the epicentre where a male moth was found. Vegetation movement from the area is banned and all contractors need a permit to move plants out.

Pheromone traps have been in the area since the moth was first found and the trapping programme will be extended to six satellite towns including Morrinsville, Ngaruawahia and Cambridge in early October. A total of 2000 traps 50 metres apart will be set up in November around the epicentre following the aerial spraying.

Mr Ross said spraying would continue until early December, with a maximum of eight sprays five to seven days apart. Spray operations would be publicised with hourly radio announcements on spray days and newspaper advertising. Spraying would be done between daybreak and evening, but concentrated early in the morning and lasting about four hours.

Committee member Gordon Hosking said it was important to respond quickly and aggressively to pest incursions, and the work needed to be done at the least cost and with the least disruption to avoid Auckland’s painted apple moth problems.

Chairman Helen Lane said she was pleased MAF was dealing with the issue before it became out of control. It was important people understood Environment Waikato’s position, which backed the MAF operation, while ensuring there was sufficient public consultation and information.

Member John Kneebone said while the spray operations had generated huge public debate, they also created awareness of the issues and increased public understanding.

Cr Jenni Vernon said it was no surprise that Hamilton was now having to spray for invasive moths. There was concern that the moth had come into the country on Japanese used cars or machinery, and pests could also be blown into the country. Dealing with invasive pests would be a continuing huge problem, she said.