Pipfruit NZ and Government officials late last month hosted a delegation of Australian politicians who visited several orchards and packing facilities in Hawkes Bay to gain an overview of how apples will be supplied into the Australian market.
The politicians, who were accompanied by officials from Biosecurity Australia, chose which orchards they went to, and were free to roam wherever they liked in a vain attempt to find fireblight. Despite visits to four production sites during the highest risk flowering period, no fireblight was found on apple orchards anywhere.
In spite of the low presence of fireblight in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand’s largest growing district, it was very disappointing to find that the politicians involved, who included Sharman Stone and shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb, arrived back in Australia proclaiming that NZ apple trade would cause a high risk of transferring fireblight into Australian apple or pear orchards. In fact one politician is reported as saying she was taken to a pear orchard that was riddled with fireblight while in New Zealand.
In common parlance, she is telling a porky. In the entire trip, the delegation found only one small twig of infected wood less than15 centimetres in length and dating from the previous year.
No less than four decisions at the World Trade Organisation have come to exactly the same conclusion: that mature symptomless apples cannot be a vector for the disease. The science is now clear and accepted.
In spite of the importance of these decisions to the trans Tasman apple dispute, which has lasted some 90 years, the entire delegation of politicians from Australia admitted that not one of them has read any of the evidence presented nor reviewed any of the decisions handed down from the three years of WTO hearings between New Zealand and Australia. It is hard, therefore, to understand on what basis they are able to pronounce on fireblight with such authority. Certainly, like good politicians, they have no intention of allowing the truth to get in the way of the myth that fireblight is somehow going to establish in Australia from kiwi apples.
The risk of this actually occurring is so low that one of the scientists at the WTO hearing stated that there was more chance of fireblight being blown across the Tasman on the wind than arriving on NZ apples!
Pipfruit NZ Chief Executive Peter Beaven expressed his disappointment with the attitude of the visitors. “We always believed that they were not coming to New Zealand with an open mind to examine the growing and packing processes and understand the science better. Their comments since they returned to Australia merely confirm that their minds were closed to the evidence they should have been observing.”
No evidence has ever been presented that fireblight can be transferred on mature apples. As just one example, despite the USA and New Zealand having supplied many billions of apples into the Taiwan market over the past thirty years, that country remains free of the disease.
For more information contact
Peter Beaven, Chief Executive, Pipfruit NZ
+64 6 873 7080
+64 272 355 322