Myrtle rust is a significant disease of plants in the
Myrtaceae and has been spreading rapidly around
the world in recent years and is now in Australia.
It seems likely to reach New Zealand and it may
affect all Myrtaceae to some extent, but especially
in the North Island. While there has been
significant discourse about the economic and
environmental impacts of myrtle rust for New
Zealand, there has been little on the likely cultural
impacts (at least in published literature) for Māori
and their connections to taonga species. This
paper has attempted to identify some potential
cultural impacts, but a wider kōrero (discourse)
with tāngata whenua would be needed to provide
a comprehensive understanding. Such a kōrero
will be important in terms of readiness and
response for this disease if it enters New Zealand.
In preliminary engagement, Māori have shown
interest and expectation to be involved in such a
response, including conducting surveillance of
sentinel plants within New Zealand. Fortunately,
a number of indigenous New Zealand plants are
grown in Australia (and elsewhere) where myrtle
rust is now endemic. Quantitative information on
disease incidence from these sources would also
be a useful resource for understanding the likely
impact in New Zealand before it arrives here.
We thank Peter Symes of Royal Botanic Gardens,
Melbourne, Australia, for information on
New Zealand native Myrtaceae in Australia.
This work was funded through Plant & Food
Research internal funding aligned to the research
collaboration Better Border Biosecurity.
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