Waikato Regional Council has this week moved to a long term containment and eradication programme of the velvetleaf pest plant, following a month-long operation that has resulted in 100 properties being inspected.
As a result of the inspections the council has confirmed new velvetleaf infestations on 16 properties, including 8 from imported fodder beet seed. Council pest plant officers found no sign of velvetleaf on 70 properties, but will be revisiting them in spring/summer. Velvetleaf had previously been discovered in the Waikato in 2011.
“A key focus of our response has been on identifying as many properties as possible that might have infestations so we can prevent further spread of this nasty pest,” said the council’s acting biosecurity spokesman, Brett Bailey.
“To do that, we’ve been talking to landowners and a large number of people in the agricultural industry to trace movements of machinery and risk goods or products, and identify possible pathways to infestation.
“These industries have understood the urgency of the response and the risk to our regional and national economy, and we’ve been grateful for the information provided to our tracing team.
“Through this work, we’ve been able to link infestations to imported fodder beet seeds, infested maize crops and maize silage, and unclean machinery. We’ve investigated various other pathways to infestation, including manures from grain-fed animals. However, the evidence is inconclusive and for some farms we may never be able to confirm the original source,” Mr Bailey said.
He said the council is working with affected landowners on individual biosecurity plans to prevent velvetleaf from spreading any further.
“Containing and eradicating velvetleaf is going to require a long term commitment from landowners, industry, stakeholders, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the council. Landowners and farm contractors, in particular, have a key role to play in preventing this pest’s spread and controlling velvetleaf on their own properties.
“The plans we’re producing with landowners include steps for plant removal, ongoing monitoring, and managing pathways around movement of crops, animals and machinery to prevent the spread of this pest plant, while also enabling farmers to continue operating.”
Chair of the council’s integrated catchment committee, councillor Stuart Husband, said: “This biosecurity event has been hugely stressful for all concerned and I’ve really appreciated our staff jumping on it and doing their best to work with farmers and industry to contain its spread. It will obviously have a long tail on it and we’ve all got to do our best to keep on top of it.”
There are a number of things farmers can do to protect their properties, and others, from velvetleaf and other serious pest plants.
Council pest plant officers can provide farmers with information on containment of velvetleaf – 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732) or visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/velvetleaf.