Gardening expert Neil Fisher
Gardening expert Neil Fisher

Myrtle Rust sparks industry fears

GREEN thumbs who attended a public meeting on Myrtle Rust last night left less confident than when they arrived.

Many attendees commented to The Morning Bulletin they had hoped to feel better about the threat from the fungal plant disease after receiving information from Biosecurity Queensland representatives, but left feeling worse.

"It's scary," one woman said.

And it wasn't just the average gardener concerned about the disease which Biosecurity representatives said they could not eradicate and that was here to stay in Australia.

Representatives from CQ businesses in affected industries had a separate meeting earlier yesterday with Biosecurity.

The Bulletin's gardening guru Neil Fisher said he was surprised more than 100 people attended this meeting, many driving three or four hours.

Mr Fisher said many were concerned that funding for Myrtle Rust investigations and research was due to run out at the end of June, and that there were only six people on the team dealing with it in Queensland.

"This is a major outbreak," he said.

Mr Fisher said representatives from almost all of Central Queensland's nurseries were at the meeting.

"It's a real sign of concern," he said.

Biosecurity's community engagement manager Riki Fulton said it could be up to 20 years before the real impacts of the disease were known.

He said there were now 1059 cases of Myrtle Rust in Queensland, 120 affected host species in 19 council areas with Rockhampton being the farthest north so far.

"We haven't done any research on the fungicides," Dr Fiona Gilbin said.

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said it was obvious there was still a lot unknown about the plant disease.

"The other thing that was obvious is that they need funding to continue the fight and enough to put on more staff to handle the workload," he said.

"It's concerning that there's not enough known about the rust, despite being around nearly two years (in Australia)."

If you spot Myrtle Rust, phone 13 25 23.

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