MPI asks High Court for extra time to make decision over thousands of fruit trees considered 'biosecurity risk'

Ministry of Primary Industries has asked the High Court for extra time to make a decision on how to manage the "biosecurity risk" of more than 47,000 fruit trees.

Last Friday, a judge ruled that the ministry had used the wrong provisions under the Biosecurity Act to order the destruction of the plant material.

Interim orders were put in place which require uncontained plants to be treated with insecticides and de-flowering agents or be covered with netting to keep out insects.

"By doing this, the biosecurity risk can be managed and all parties have time to make carefully considered decisions on what to do next," says MPI Director of Plants and Pathways, Pete Thomson.

A spokesperson for the affected apple and stonefruit industry group, Paul Paynter, questioned the request for an extension.

"Individually and as a group, we've had to jump at the demands of MPI and meet unrealistic timeframes for containment of plant materials. This has put us under significant personal and financial stress. Yet MPI want us to give them the luxury of time to review the situation and work at their own pace," said Mr Paynter.

Some trees have already been destroyed.

"The vast majority of trees have been contained, netted and sprayed. A number of trees have been moved into storage and will need to be planted urgently otherwise they will die from transplant stress. This is not an acceptable outcome," explained Mr Paynter.

MPI says it has already committed to meeting with "affected nurserymen" tomorrow, with further meetings to follow.

Ripe apricots on a tree branch
Apricot tree. Source: istock.com