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Published: 2009-07-08 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is warning southern Franklin land owners that they risk fines of up to $1000 if they fail to control woolly nightshade on their properties and also face being charged the cost of destroying the pest plants

Woolly nightshade is a significant threat to agricultural land in the Waikato region and, under the council’s Regional Pest Management Strategy, all land owners must remove the weed from their property.

Most land owners in southern Franklin comply with this rule but there is a significant minority who are failing to take action, said EW’s biosecurity operations manager, Peter Russell.

"Not removing woolly nightshade, and risking its further spread, means that those failing to comply with the rules are putting at risk all the good work done by their neighbours who are complying."

Several dozen southern Franklin land owners have had enforcement action taken against them in the past five years, meaning EW had organised removal of the weed and charged these owners for the work and fined them.

"We are now turning our attention to the remaining group of non-complying land owners from around the southern Franklin area," said Mr Russell.

"EW would prefer to work with them on sorting the woolly nightshade out on their property, and we encourage people to contact our pest plant contractor for help in sorting things out.

"But, at the end of the day, we won’t shy away from taking enforcement action in the near future unless we get a positive response from people who still have woolly nightshade on their properties."

Mr Russell acknowledged that most land owners in northern Franklin, who are in the Auckland Regional Council’s area, don’t have to remove woolly nightshade.

"However, here in the Waikato woolly nightshade is such a significant threat to agricultural production and biodiversity that we cannot afford to let it spread unchecked.

"Woolly nightshade forms dense stands which crowd out and suppress desirable plants. It rapidly invades agricultural land and urban areas, destroying forests, native habitats and pastures. It is not something we can afford to be complacent about."

Mr Russell urged land owners to contact EW’s pest plant contractor, Philip Mabin of West Waikato Weeds Ltd on 07 825 5052 or 021 502 099, if they wished to discuss their individual situation. "Philip is happy to discuss woolly nightshade control options with affected landowners."