Myrtle Rust: The great conqueror.

Sharyn Hoskin, a coastal gardener found out about Myrtle rust from her Dad a few weeks ago but only checked her trees this morning. “You hear about these things but you don’t take much notice, then all of a sudden it’s right here.” She estimates that approximately 10-15% of her plants belong to the affected groups.

“We’d be very sad if our Pohutukawas died and Feijoas are good food… I wouldn’t like to see them go.”

Hoskin told the Taranaki Thing that the response to Myrtle rust reminded her of the Cabbage tree virus a few years ago, “Everyone was really worried about it and there was a big response…The hype seems to have faded now, sometimes nature fights it’s way back… fingers crossed the same thing will happen with this.”

She believes MPI are doing a good job, although “It spreads on the wind, it’s going to be pretty hard to stop.”

Sharyn would be “devastated,” if her pohutukawas were infected. -Photo: Eli Hill.

Myrtle rust is the latest epidemic to hit New Zealand’s fragile Ecosystem, affecting both our native and introduced species. This week it was discovered in three sites in Taranaki: A council depot, a handful of nurseries in Waitara and on a property in Waitui. MPI are releasing daily reports on it’s spread here.

Myrtle rust on host plants. Source: MPI

Myrtle rust is native to South America, but arrived in New Zealand from  Australia. Below shows it’s spread into the pacific.

June 2010.

While it originated in South America Myrtle Rust was discovered in mid-2010 in Australia. Where its current range is limited to the east coast due to Australian preventative measures.

April-May 2017.

On the 4th of April 2017 MPI reoported that a “Serious fungal plant disease (was) found on Raoul Island trees.” In May the first reports of Myrtle rust began to emerge from KeriKeri.

To May 23 2017 (Present).

MPI have confirmed there are 16 properties infected with Myrtle rust in New Zealand. “The majority of properties are in Taranaki with just 2 confirmed in Northland and one new Waikato find.”

By Eli Hill.


Paint The Town Green.

Author, blogger, citizen activist and proud Grandmother Stuart Bramhall wants the world her grandchildren grow up in to be safe and sustainable. That’s why she’s standing as the Green party’s candidate in this year’s election.

Dr Bramhall, Taranaki’s Green party candidate. Photo:Eli Hill.

I meet Doctor Bramhall in a small cafe; Piet Paris. She has a steaming tea in front of her and greets me warmly as we chat about her books, the cafe and particularly family which has become a focus for her;

“In a few weeks I’m flying over to the states to meet my Grandson,” she smiles, “I’m a proud Grandmother. I want the world that my grandchildren grow up in to be well looked after.”

But the moment our interview starts she’s all business, the environmentally friendly cogs in her head whirring as I get away my first question:  Dairy and Oil are Taranaki’s two biggest exports, what will the green party do to transition these areas?

She nods slightly, “The Green party is advocating for something called a smart, green economy. Dairy is a commodity and so is oil and gas and that’s one reason why New Zealand is so poor; because we’re only exporting raw commodities. Every time the milk price drops the New Zealand economy takes a big hit.”

“We (The Green Party) want to have an economy that’s based on value added products. Ideas, technology, renewable energy technology. There are some New Zealand companies at the forefront of innovation; …Xero and Lumio are two.”

“Because we’re only exporting raw commodities. Every time the milk price drops the New Zealand economy takes a big hit.” -Stuart Bramhall.

She sips at her tea, prepares for another question.

Currently Taranaki has two gas operated power stations, Stratford power station and McKee. What will they be replaced with should your party come to power? (excuse the pun)

“Taranaki is well primed for a wind-farm, there is some really promising developments with saltwater batteries, so solar is also viable. We’re also looking into wave energy and mini hydro, we don’t support any more large-scale damming.”

Bramhall believes that the Green’s goal of 100% renewable by 2030 is absolutely realistic. “At present the Government subsidises fracking… The reality is that renewable is cheaper in the long run.”

Solar and Wind. -The reality is renewable is cheaper in the long run.

It’s clear to see that Doctor Bramhall has thought a great deal about her party’s policies, she even disagrees with a few of them; “The party’s policies on water fluoridation and 1080 won’t work for Taranaki. Those are very important issues in Taranaki. You can’t stand as a candidate and support those two issues.”

While the Green party believes 1080 should be used as a last resort and that fluoridation should be up to individual districts Dr Bramhall is in opposition to either being used in New Zealand.

She also feels that the Green party has been drawing itself too close to the Labour party, “I think when they signed the memorandum of understanding a lot of people were confused, they think they can vote for Labour and it won’t matter… Unless Green get a number of ministers in Parliament a Labour government will do nothing to protect the waterways and environment.”

“When campaigning we found a lot of people that were very disenchanted with national and labour, but because we were too tight with Labour they didn’t vote for us. The vote went to NZ first.”

If you live in New Plymouth you can expect to see her about, “We’re trying to develop language that’s move understandable to the provinces and I’ll be organising plenty of doorknocking.”

Dr Bramhall comes across as a person with principles who’s representing the Green party not because she’s interested in building a political profile or indulging in a chance to express party views but because she believes the choices we make today will affect our grandchildren’s tomorrow.

She believes the choices we make today will affect our grandchildren’s tomorrow.

By the time her Tea has cooled and our interview is finished there are only two questions left unanswered;

Will she earn your vote?

Will Taranaki be painted Green in the upcoming election?

Comment your thoughts below.

Are the seeds you’ve planted killing bees?

Three days ago scientists from the university of California presented the first evidence that neonicotinoids, a commonly used pesticide here in New Zealand is impairing the ability of honey bees to fly. The report found that a “Common neonicotinoid pesticide decreases homing success in honey bees.”

Bees are a vital part of our economy and ecology

Ask someone at your dinner table if they’ve heard of neonicotinoid and they’ll probably look at you blankly.

Despite their complicated name manufacturers estimate that between 20 and 40 per cent of grass-seed sold in our country is pre-treated with neonicotinoids. The pesticide is sprayed on outsides of seeds to discourage harmful insects and birds from eating the crops, ensuring greater yields for farmers and horticulturalists.

However neonicotinoids have also been linked to the collapse of over a third of beehive numbers in the United States and between a third and half of beehives in Europe, where their use has been heavily restricted.

Maren Ricken of Kiwiseed says that their company are “Aware neonoticotoids are the number 1 reason for bees dying in the world.”

The humble honey bee has become a vital part of the New Zealand economy and ecosystem with New Zealand export earnings valued at $233 Million and beekeepers producing 12,000 tonnes of honey a year. Bees also provide pollination for a great deal of our fruit, flowers, and native plants.

The pesticide affects their flight pattern, with the bee’s sense of navigation being impaired, making bees fly greater distances to achieve the same amount of pollen collection. Instead of making a bee-line for their hive the navigationally confused bees make more of a bee-zag.

Over time, the decreased pollen collection results in the death of a hive as workers are forced to travel greater distances for the same amount of pollen. Studies have shown that neonicotinoides can remain in the ground and organic matter for years.

As in any issue where livelihoods are affected, everyone has an opinion;

Although aware of the discussion Stephen Black of Bees-R-Us Taranaki says he does not have a problem with seed coatings, “But I am aware that some NZ beekeepers suspect a problem, mainly in the Hawkes bay area.”

John McCullough, general manager of Egmont Seed Company was aware of the compound’s effects,” I am very aware of this chemical group and the potential it has to harm bees. None of the seeds used by Egmont Seeds contain Neonicotinoids.”

McCullough is also a beekeeper and a member of the Taranaki Bee Club where they regularly discuss such issues. McCullough told The Taranaki Thing he believes that New Zealand bees have a greater chance of resisting the neonicotinoids then their overseas counterparts, “Our bees have a far wider range of pollen and nectar sources to forage on, giving them a greater chance of resisting any exposure to disease or chemical.”

Charmaine Hanser used neonicotinoid-coated seeds without knowing it

Coastal farmer Charmaine Hanser had no idea what neonicotinoids were, later we found out that grass-seed she’d planted contained them. “We don’t want to do anything to hurt our bees, they’re essential for the clover that helps fix nitrogen into the soil. If I knew that (the seed was harmful) I wouldn’t use it, I don’t even spray pesticides on flowers.”

But it’s not just farmers who use them. Neonicotinoid coated seeds are often sold in garden centers. The best way to tell if the seeds you are purchasing contain the pesticide is to check whether they’ve been dyed. Manufacturers are required to dye seeds that contain neonicotinoids.


Dyed seeds contain Neonicotinoids

Seeds without dye don’t contain Neonicotinoids

The Waitara’s Water Woes.

The Waitara river is more then just a waterway, it’s an ancestor and a food source.

In the summer months Waitara bridge serves as a playground for school kids of all ages. As many as forty boys and girls will leap, bomb and flip into the water at once.
While cold weather keeps them inside, come summer they’ll back at it.

When I spoke to the kids who usually congregate to the bridge they told me it wasn’t the cars or the height they feared, it was the water.
“Mum won’t let me come here,” said Reef a thirteen year old.
In January 2016 levels of E.coli crossed action level, Taranaki regional council put up signs to warn against swimming or the collection of shellfish. While kaimoana have reluctantly been left alone the children still swim, it’s become a part of their culture and mere signs won’t stand in the way of that.
But they get sick and they stop. A tradition is dying.
Andrea Pikiore Moore from the group Friends of the Waitara River Inc says, “It’s all about the needs of humans and taking from the natural environment. Stones for roading, trees for farming or ‘flood protection’… -the health of our river is under continual bombardment.”
Retired dairy farmer Lindsay Dickson agrees, “Intensifying cows or people will decrease water quality.” He looks out to the water, “Run-off used to go into the streams and no-one was affected because there were hardly any cows.”

Various signs warning of health risks associated with shellfish collection.

A 2016 report published by the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) found that “Currently half of the region’s dairy farms discharge to water.” This report agrees with the council’s own findings; “That faecal bacteria found in the river were sourced predominantly from cattle.” Also in 2016 the Green party placed the Waitara river on it’s top ten list of waterways it was going to revive.

A comparison between the Waitara river (Right) and the Urenui river (Left). The Urenui river is also a tidal, mud bottomed river. – Spot the difference

So what’s being done?

The TRC found that riparian planting has been shown to be amongst the most effective, cost-efficient means of promoting stream health and is in the midst of a riparian management programme that offers low cost fencing and plants to farmers with watercourses running through their land. They are “Confident that this project will be largely completed by the end of the decade.”
Local schools have been involved in both beach clean-ups and planting of trees along the river bank and the human sewerage that was once intentionally dumped is now treated and being piped offshore.
The water is still murky, shellfish can’t be collected and swimmers and surfers alike get sick, but as the New Zealand public turns it’s attention to waterways and the quality that’s been lost there seems to be a momentum gathering. Maybe we can fix our mistakes, work with nature instead of against it, and the Waitara river can  run clear once more.

The Begining.

In the beginning, there was an idea. The idea was to have fun writing articles for  other people and maybe if the person who had the idea got lucky a bit of cash too. Unfortunately all the good articles required actual experience in the journalism field and all the bad ones were on real-estate.

I hate real-estate.

So the idea was abandoned and sat in the dust along with all of the other brilliant ideas I’ve ever had. It dried up, shriveled and almost got eaten by an offer of paid articles on real estate.

And then along came WordPress.

I’m writing my first article right now; it’s fricking fun, I don’t need pictures of 27 Lemon st and if you hate my style of writing then too bad! I don’t get paid for this.

And that my amigos is a letter of introduction from me to you. I hope you stick around. I hope you read my  articles and I hope we can have a liddle fun together. My plan for this website is basically based on my plan for life; write stuff and leave the rest to the guy upstairs.

If it happens it will; if it doesn’t, at least it was a meaningful attempt at something. 

Let’s kick this off in style.