Campaign against Chilean Needle Grass heats up

For the first time, biosecurity warning signs are now available for every farm gate in the country to combat the spread of foreign invaders like Chilean Needle Grass. 

The new signs – available free of charge from regional councils in Canterbury, Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay – are part of a public campaign to raise awareness of Chilean Needle Grass; an invasive weed, which poses a significant threat to the sustainability of arable and pastoral farming in New Zealand.

It seeds prolifically and can displace pasture and desirable vegetation; it is unpalatable to stock when in seed; and its sharp seeds catch on passing animals and can penetrate the skin and muscle damaging the hide and downgrading the carcass.

Chilean Needle Grass is currently known to affect approximately 3700 hectares in Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Canterbury.  It could infest an estimated 15 million hectares nationwide if measures to contain it are not carried out by landowners and visitors to rural properties.

As well as signs, the Chilean Needle Grass Awareness Programme campaign has moved online with a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chileanneedlegrass) encouraging property owners to upload photos of signs nationwide, alongside a YouTube video demonstrating how to identify and eradicate the plant pest.

“We’re hoping the campaign will go viral to raise awareness of how easily Chilean Needle Grass can spread and the measures farmers can take to protect themselves from new pests entering their properties,” says Charles Wiffen, Parnassus farmer and Chair of the Chilean Needle Grass Pest Management Liaison Committee in North Canterbury.

“People, animals, vehicles, machinery and equipment as well as soil, mud and contaminated feed can all transport pests and diseases from property to property. It only takes one seed from a Chilean Needle Grass plant attaching itself to a vehicle, person or animal for the plant to move and infect another property,” Mr Wiffen said.

“It is not only landowners; visitors to farms, whether they are contractors or guests, also need to consider what’s on board when they enter and leave rural properties. By displaying a sign at the farm gate it reminds people to think about their vehicle hygiene and basic farm biosecurity.”

Environment Canterbury, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Marlborough District Council, and the Ministry for Primary Industries are working collaboratively on the Chilean Needle Grass Awareness Programme campaign with support from the Sustainable Farming Fund.

The farm biosecurity sign asks visitors to a farm to contact the land occupier before entering the property and has a space for the land occupier to write their phone number. This provides the land occupier with an opportunity to ask questions about the biosecurity status of any properties that visitors to their farm have visited and to check that their vehicles, machinery, equipment, clothing, and footwear are clean and free from soil, mud, and manure as well as seeds and other plant matter before allowing them to enter the property.

 

Charles Wiffen, Parnassus farmer and Chair of the Chilean Needle Grass Pest Management Liaison Committee in North Canterbury stands next to the new sign he has placed on his farm entranceway advising visitors to respect farm biosecurity.

Promote farm biosecurity and go in the draw to win $500 worth of fuel vouchers

For more information on farm biosecurity or to request a farm biosecurity sign for your property please contact Chilean Needle Grass Awareness Programme Coordinator Jenna Taylor (03 314 9586 or 027 839 3878, or jenna.taylor@ecan.govt.nz: PO Box 7, Amberley 744, or email a photo of yourself next to your sign at the entrance to your property along with your name and contact details to Jenna by 30 June 2014 and you will go in the draw to win $500 worth of fuel vouchers. Alternatively, post the photo on the Chilean Needle Grass Awareness Programme Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chileanneedlegrass) and receive two entries in the draw.