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Pea violations ‘hard to believe’

AsureQuality Ltd team member gathering pea straw in Greytown on Monday. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

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A large trailer load and 10 fadge sacks of pea straw were taken from a Greytown resident’s garden on Monday and removed for burning by Biosecurity New Zealand.

Fortunately, samples taken at the site showed “no sign of the weevil or larvae”, Biosecurity New Zealand confirmed in an email on Monday.

In August 2016 under section 131 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 Act, the Wairarapa region right up to Pahiatua was designated a pest control area for pea weevil.

Pea seeds, pea plants and pea straw were banned. These cannot be moved in or out of the area. If stock is fed pea straw, it must be done on a concrete pad in a controlled area.

Thick layers of pea straw in a 10 sqm area was put down as mulch around trees. This was seen and reported to the Times-Age by a resident who passes the property regularly, and inquiries to the Ministry for Primary Industries drew Biosecurity New Zealand’s interest.

They arrived at 10.30am Monday and took most of the day to remove the pea straw. While there, the officers also found peas and pea shoots growing out of the straw.

Principal response manager for Biosecurity New Zealand David Yard, who was at the property on Monday, said that crop pests could be devastating to a region and the country.

Wairarapa was one of the biggest pea farming areas in New Zealand until the ban, he said.

“Compensation has been paid out to Wairarapa pea farmers and it is important that the farmers can get going again as we are so close to getting rid of the destructive pea weevil,” Yard said.

“It is hard to believe that someone has actually put it down here. The signs are prominent, and the ban remains in place. We are not sure at this stage whether we will prosecute.”

To declare Wairarapa “pea weevil-free”, there must no trace of the insect for a full two years. In the 2016/17 season, 1735 weevils were found in the insect trap crops.

The region must be clear for two years before the ban can be lifted. It was extended in 2018 because 15 weevils were found.

The pea weevil, Bruchus pisorum, lays its eggs into peas, the larvae eat their way out of the pea and go on to multiply.

Biosecurity officers use a trapping system to catch the pea weevil. This involves planting a controlled crop of peas to attract the pest and then killing it.

“They have only this as food,” Yard said. “We have cut the food source and they seem to be about wiped out. We are extremely grateful that a local man reported what they thought was pea straw as they were right.”

Of added concern, however, was that this was the third time in the past week that Biosecurity New Zealand had found pea matter at properties in Wairarapa.

A property in Featherston, and another in Greytown had been visited.

Providing no more weevils are trapped, Biosecurity New Zealand would look at lifting the ban for the 2020/21 growing season.

The present ban will continue until the 2019/20 growing season ends.

Yard said it was on track to remove the ban but urged everyone to be vigilant.

If you sight pea matter being grown, call Biosecurity New Zealand on 0800 809 966.

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