Myrtle Rust is a fungal pest that slipped through Australia’s weak biosecurity defences. In 2017 Australia’s Invasive Species Council published a note about its arrival on Norfolk Island and on 17 May 2017 issued a press release:

“Over the past six months myrtle rust has been detected on both Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. Australian authorities have responded poorly to both outbreaks.

On Lord Howe Island, Lord Howe Island Board staff swung quickly into action to try to eradicate infected plants but received little support from the NSW government’s primary industry and environment departments beyond advice. Lord Howe Island Board staff had to rely on their own limited resources because myrtle rust is now considered “endemic” in NSW.

On a recent visit to Norfolk Island our CEO Andrew Cox discovered that myrtle rust had been found on planted rose apples (Syzygium jambos) six months ago. No public information about the detection has been released, and the federal agriculture department is still determining a response. The new Norfolk Island Regional Council seemed unaware of the arrival. Thankfully there are no native myrtles on the island.

Myrtle rust outbreaks on these two iconic islands should have been prioritised at state and federal levels. Once established, the rust could spread to other offshore islands and possibly to mainland New Zealand. Last month myrtle rust was found at Raoul Island, about 1000 km northeast of New Zealand and a similar distance east of Norfolk Island.”