Staff from all of Southland’s councils are out walking in fodder beet crops this week in the search for the pest plant velvetleaf.
A total of 76 team members are in the field today, including staff from Environment Southland, Invercargill City Council and Southland District Council. Staff from Gore District Council will join the inspection teams from Wednesday.
Environment Southland biosecurity manager Richard Bowman said the response to the velvetleaf outbreak has been stepped up once again, with the doubling of inspection staff designed to help get through the known suspect crops before velvetleaf plants drop their seeds and spread.
Asure Quality, who is managing the response under the direction of the Ministry for Primary Industries, has also added a large pool of staff from throughout the country to the Southland response effort.
“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 it was important the District Council was supporting the response as it was a major issue for its 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 council fully supports 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.”
Over 600 hectares of an estimated 1400 has already been inspected, with more than 60 velvetleaf plants found in various stages of maturity.
As teams are making their way through the inspection list, farmers are being urged to do their bit by check 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 MPI.
Mr Bowman said it is important people do not pull the plants out and move them, as this could cause seeds to drop and the plants to spread.