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Landowners urged to help halt spread of wild kiwifruit

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 10:45 a.m.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is calling for the assistance of kiwifruit orchardists, farmers, forestry owners and the public to help prevent the spread of wild kiwifruit vines after the biggest find of the pest plants in a decade.

About 7000 wild kiwifruit vines were found and destroyed throughout the region last year - the most vines found since 2002, when 7500 vines were found and destroyed.

Every year about this time, tens of thousands of tonnes of reject kiwifruit are distributed on farms as stock feed. But birds are also eating the kiwifruit, accessing leftovers from stock feeding. They disperse kiwifruit seeds through their droppings, resulting in pest vines growing all over the region.  

Wild kiwifruit vines strangle and kill native bush and host trees such as pine trees.

While wild kiwifruit vines are mostly concentrated in the Western Bay (particularly around Te Puke) and the Eastern Bay, the entire region including Rotorua is at risk.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Group Manager Land Management Warwick Murray said wild kiwifruit vines are of concern because, as vigorous growers, they can smother large areas of bush and forest very quickly and can potentially be carriers of diseases such as PSA, which is currently imposing significant costs on the kiwifruit industry.

"A single kiwifruit contains about 1000 seeds. Half of those have the potential to produce a growing vine. When you consider that one 30-year-old vine can smother 1000 square metres of native bush, then you begin to comprehend the potential for problems."

Regional Council began a control programme for wild kiwifruit 12 years ago. The programme is funded collaboratively between Bay of Plenty Regional Council, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated and Kiwifruit Vine Health. It is an outstanding example of industry and Council working together to manage an environmental problem.

"While this programme has been successful, with vines found smaller on average than some years ago, significantly more vines were discovered last year - especially within forestry blocks. We need public help to prevent this problem from getting bigger."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is urging orchardists to remove reject fruit from vines and mulch them as soon as possible. We are also urging farmers to cover stockpiles of fruit with shade cloth or windbreak netting or similar and feed out only what will be eaten by stock at one time to prevent birds from getting to leftovers.

Mr Murray said now is the time to check any gullies and forestry blocks close to kiwifruit orchards to see if wild vines are growing.

"They are quite visible at this time of year because the leaves are yellowing," Mr Murray said.

"This is a problem we can't battle alone," Mr Murray said. "We urge anyone who sees wild kiwifruit growing anywhere in the region to let us know as soon as possible."

It's not just orchardists and farmers who need to be careful. Trampers, and anyone disposing of kiwifruit while out in the bush, should also take care.

Anyone who suspects they have seen a wild kiwifruit vine should call the Bay of Plenty Regional Council on 0800 884 880 and ask to speak to a biosecurity officer.

Ends

For further media information please contact:
Beck Vass, Communications Advisor, 0800 884 881 extn 8152 or 027 505 2587.

Summary

What can people do?

Orchardists:
- Remove reject fruit from vines and mulch as soon as possible.  This prevents the on-going mass feeding by birds and allows the fruit to compost as soon as possible.

Farmers:
- Cover stockpiles of fruit with shade cloth or windbreak netting or similar to prevent birds from getting to them.
- Feed out only what will be eaten by stock at one time to prevent birds from eating leftovers.
- Prevent leachate from kiwifruit from entering waterways.

Members of the public:
- Be careful with the disposal of kiwifruit, particularly while out in the bush.
- Keep an eye out for wild kiwifruit and call Bay of Plenty Regional Council on 0800 884 880 and ask to speak to a biosecurity officer if you suspect you have seen a wild kiwifruit vine.

Wild kiwifruit highres