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Plant Nazis

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Author Topic: Plant Nazis  (Read 567 times)
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« on: October 14, 2012, 01:16:31 pm »

'Plant Nazis' hunt for outlawed trees
By Cherie Howie

5:30 AM Sunday Oct 14, 2012

Biosecurity officers hold dawn raids

 Biosecurity officers have raided the Auckland Botanic Gardens, apparently looking for an exotic relation to the kauri tree that may have been illegally introduced to the country.

 The homes of the gardens' curator, Jack Hobbs, and veteran Albany ecologist Graeme Platt were also targeted by Ministry of Primary Industries staff in simultaneous raids just after dawn on Thursday.

 Officers were believed to be looking for evidence of agathis silbae, an exotic member of the kauri tree family native to several Pacific islands.

 Hobbs said he had been told by an Auckland Council lawyer not to speak to the media. A council spokeswoman also refused to comment.

 Platt said those behind the raids were "plant Nazis" influenced by an "idiot New Yorker".

 The raids were so extreme he first thought a family member had been in an accident, said Platt, who runs the New Zealand Botanical Research Institute on his property.

"I was sitting at my computer in my undies and the next thing a police car came roaring down the driveway, followed by five more cars.

I thought something very tragic must've happened. The policewoman was lovely, the others were maggots."

 Officers would not tell him what they were looking for, but Platt, 71, believed it was evidence of agathis silbae. The tree cannot be brought into New Zealand because it was not in the country before a 1997 law banned new plant imports.

 But Platt said the tree was here before 1997 under a different name, agathis macrophylla.

 It had two names because New York botanist John Silba mistakenly thought he had discovered a new species and named it after himself.

 "This clown has named it after himself, but it's the same as the agathis macrophylla. (The ministry) have even called the raids Operation Silbae, for a non-existent tree due to one idiot in New York."

 The tree was no threat and fears it could cross with native kauri were wrong because a hybrid could never wipe out the original, Platt said.

 Officers removed computers and plants and ordered him not to not sell or remove plants from the property that were part of the kauri or Norfolk pine family.

 Platt said after the raids Hobbs told him computers were also taken from his home and the botanic gardens, and plant samples were taken from the gardens.

 "He's extremely upset and staff at the botanic gardens are outraged."

 The ministry refused to comment before the Herald on Sunday deadline.
By Cherie Howie

Plant importation rules are so tight and in several instances illogical that they are outrightly flouted.

e.g. you can't bring in a named varitity of orchid (or any other plant) if it isn't already here without a sh** load of permits and tests to prove that it is non invasive and not a threat (economcally and otherwise) to plants and bussinesses already here but if you manage to smuggle in a named varity and cross it with something else you can register and sell the offspring because they were bred here.

This situation with the misnamed/renamed tree is extreme but not new.
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2013, 07:04:14 pm »

Illegal kiwifruit pulled out ... a year later
By Nicholas Jones 

5:30 AM Saturday Aug 10, 2013

Kiwifruit growers are concerned that a Government agency appears to have waited for a year before acting against possibly-diseased illegal vines - and acted only once another agency became involved.

Last night, the Ministry for Primary Industries said it had begun to remove and destroy kiwifruit in suburban Auckland that appears to have grown from seed imported illegally.

The seeds were not detected when they were imported from China in 1997, and are believed to have been growing since 1999.

Weekend Herald enquiries have revealed that MPI has been aware of the vines since July last year.

Yesterday's action came only after Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), the industry agency which combats biosecurity risks, became aware of the vines on Wednesday and requested urgent action from MPI.

The delay in action will spook a $1.5 billion-a-year industry that is still feeling the devastating effect of Psa.


Kiwifruit canker, or Psa, spread to more than 1000 orchards, and the long-term cost of the infestation has been put at up to $885 million.

An independent review into Psa found biosecurity shortcomings before the discovery of the bacterial disease in Te Puke.

When asked about the time MPI had been aware of the Auckland vines, KVH chairman Peter Ombler said: "We are very concerned, especially in the wake of Psa, that we are very much on top of these situations."

Mr Ombler said Zespri had alerted his organisation to the vines. It had been offered some fruit to market, and had contacted the ministry.

"We are very hopeful that any risk presented to us is relatively low. I wouldn't say it is nil, but it is low.

"Once we were alerted to this situation in the middle of the week we have worked with MPI to ensure the situation has been dealt with."

MPI response manager Katherine Clift said the ministry was told the seeds were brought into New Zealand with a container of household goods in 1997. They were not declared and not detected.

Testing last year ruled out the presence of any serious disease-causing organisms.

MPI assessed the plants as being a low risk to the kiwifruit industry, and further testing and monitoring did not alter that view.

"In addition, the plants are at a location removed from key kiwifruit growing areas and the owner has stated that no plant material has been moved from the property."

A Zespri spokeswoman said company staff met the grower in June last year. The grower was told import documents would have to be seen, and referred the grower to MPI.

Asked if the delay in removing the plants was concerning, a spokesman for Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said MPI was removing the vines as a precautionary measure, "which is the right thing to do".
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