NZ opens kiwifruit pollen import review to tackle Psa entry problem

Top Stories
NZ opens kiwifruit pollen import review to tackle Psa entry problem

The New Zealand government has flagged kiwifruit pollen as a potential cause for the entry of vine disease Psa last year, and is commissioning an independent enquiry into the matter.

The move from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) follows a series of investigations into the ways the  bacterium could have entered New Zealand.

Read the report summarizing the investigations here.

New Zealand's import rules at the time of the outbreak meant pollen could only be imported from unopened flowers to avoid bacterial contamination, but MAF research has shown Psa can be taken from the pollen of closed flowers.

"The report does not identify a definite means of introduction, but does find there are a number of potential pathways, including people, equipment, and pollen," said MAF director general Wayne McNee.

"Given the new information that has emerged on the potential for pollen to spread the disease, I want to review our processes for assessing risk, and incorporating changing science.

"We still cannot categorically say that Psa in pollen can infect healthy vines; there's still more work to be done to prove that so we still cannot definitively say that pollen was the way that Psa entered New Zealand."

McNee said the review would look at importing rules, how they were developed, the decision-making surrounding them and what could happen in the future.

"I want to be confident that we are doing absolutely everything we can to manage biosecurity risk around products imported to New Zealand.  If there are improvements we can make to the way we set standards then I want to identify and implement them."

Horticulture New Zealand president Andrew Fenton hailed the move, as it emphasizes the importance of government and industry working together to prevent diseases and pests from arriving.

"The first question growers ask after the discovery of any new pest or disease in this country is 'where did this come from? And their second question is usually, 'can we make sure this doesn't happen again?'" he said.

"However, the reality is all our resources go into figuring out how to survive with the new pest or disease in the environment, and we have little time or resource left to evaluate how it got here.

"We support any effort to review and improve the biosecurity pathways into this country."

Subscribe to our newsletter