60 pest plants found, search teams doubled

Staff from all Southland councils are checking fodder beet crops this week in the search for the pest plant velvetleaf. About 600 hectares of an estimated 1400 hectares at risk have already been inspected and more than 60 velvetleaf plants have been found in various stages of maturity.

Seventy-six people are in the field today (Tuesday, 5 April 2016), including staff from Environment Southland, Invercargill City Council and Southland District Council. Staff from Gore District Council will join the inspection teams from Wednesday.

Image of velvetleaf
So far 60 Velvetleaf pest plants have been found in Southland

Environment Southland biosecurity manager Richard Bowman said the number of inspection staff had been doubled to help get through the known suspect crops before velvetleaf plants drop their seeds. Asure Quality, which is managing the response under the direction of the Ministry for Primary Industries, has also added staff from throughout the country to the Southland response. “It’s a really great combined effort being led by Environment Southland, but with the support of all these other organisations,” Mr Bowman said.

Southland District Council chief executive Steve Ruru said velvetleaf was a major issue for rural communities. “It’s appropriate we get out there and help rid Southland of this plant,” he said. “We will continue to help as and when we are needed.”

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King said the ICC fully supported the efforts being put into the velvetleaf inspections. “If the plant becomes fully established in Southland it will be extremely bad for the farming community – and what is bad for the farming community is bad for Invercargill.”

NOTE: Farmers are being urged to do their bit by checking their own crops regularly and reporting any signs of velvetleaf to the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 80 99 66 . Anybody who finds a suspected velvetleaf plant should leave it where it is, mark its location, photograph it and contact the Ministry. Mr Bowman said it was important people did not pull the plants out and move them as that could cause seeds to drop and the plants to spread.