MPI releases thousands of confiscated fruit plants back to growers

Rural Exchange 29/09/2018

The Ministry for Primary Industries has released around 20,000 apple plants and 400 stonefruit plants from containment this week.

The plant material was seized following an MPI audit in March which found a number of significant failures at a US testing facility.

MPI has now completed additional testing for pests and diseases of concern on the affected apple plants as well as a small number of stonefruit plants, says Pete Thomson, director of plant and pathways.

“As all the test results were negative and we are satisfied the biosecurity risk has been minimised, we’re pleased to be in the position to release these plants back to their owners," he said in a statement.

Nearly 20,000 stonefruit plants require further testing over spring and summer when diseases of concern will be most evident if they are present.

Andy McGrath, owner of McGrath Nurseries, was one of the growers affected by initial confiscation of plants.

Several growers were fired-up by MPI's seizure and re-testing of the plants, but Mr McGrath says the testing itself is fine - it's the bureaucratic process that's "a bit out of kilter".

"It's a record-keeping issue it's not a functional testing issue with the facility. So the whole response was a bit over the top.

"Remember that this plant material comes into New Zealand and spends one-to-two years in post-entry quarantine [...] and is fully tested again in New Zealand," he told RadioLIVE.

Rural Exchange co-host Richard Loe summed the situation up.

"So what we're saying is the testing's okay, nothing was found, but the paperwork's left wanting?"

"And that could have been sorted out with a cup of tea and a discussion," Mr McGrath added.

MPI will meet with growers in the near future to discuss several unresolved points, including compensation.

Listen to the full interview with Fenton Wilson above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.