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Australian fruit fly causes biosecurity scare in New Zealand

A part of Auckland, New Zealand went on biosecurity lockdown following the discovery of a fruit fly from Queensland, Australia.

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A sign advises One Direction fans at Auckland International Airport on April 19, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Phil Walter/AFP/Getty Images)

A part of Auckland, New Zealand went on biosecurity lockdown following the discovery of a fruit fly from Queensland, Australia.

The single male fruit fly was caught in a routine surveillance trap this week in the Auckland neighborhood of Mt Roskill, prompting the deployment of a biosecurity team, the ABC reported.

The country's primary industries department declared the area a controlled zone and has banned any vegetable material being removed.

New Zealand Primary Industries Minister David Carter said: "We need to quickly find out whether this trapping [involves] a single insect or whether a breeding population has been established, in which case an eradication response will be commenced immediately."

It is feared the species, which costs the Australian fruit and vegetable industry $160 million a year, could severely damage New Zealand's fresh produce exports, TV.co.nz reported.

The New Zealand government said it had already begun notifying trading partners of the potential threat to its $3.5 billion export industry.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said while one fruit fly alone did not create an immediate problem, "if it was to establish here, it would definitely have tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of problem for us in terms of, particularly, our market access."

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Silcock said the industry, which is in the middle of its export season, was waiting with "bated breath" for further developments.

"There's only one fly, it's a male, and we're hoping that's all there is," he said. "It's not an incursion. An incursion would be if the fly was established, and it is far from that."

The Queensland fruit fly has been detected twice before in New Zealand — in Northland in 1995 and in Auckland in 1996, the ABC wrote. In both cases, no further sign of the fly was found after a period of surveillance.

NZCity.com cited Federated Farmers President Bruce Wills as saying that while any biosecurity breach was a concern, he was not yet too concerned.

"We're always vulnerable, there's a lot of trade that goes backwards and forwards. So it's just an incident that's come up and we've ensured that all effort has been made to get to the bottom of this issue." 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120510/auckland-new-zealand-biosecurity-fruit-fly-queensland-australia