The Wairau Lagoon, the last bastion of the ‘Aussie mozzie’ – the Southern Saltmarsh Mosquito – is now officially clear of the infestation and New Zealand has become the first country in the world to wipe out the pest.
‘New Zealand is finally free of this mosquito,’ says Colin King. ‘It’s a vicious daytime biter capable of carrying the Ross River Virus and at the end of an 11 year programme we can finally say it has been successfully eradiated.’
David Carter, Minister for Biosecurity and Tony Ryall, Minister of Health, share Colin King’s enthusiasm for this outcome. ‘Ross River Virus can be very debilitating and it is a huge achievement for New Zealand to be the first country in the world to wipe out this saltmarsh mosquito. The last mosquito larvae were found in December 2008,’ says Mr Ryall.
Responsibility for the eradication programme was handed over by the Ministry of Health to MAF Biosecurity New Zealand in 2006.
The economic impact of this mosquito establishing permanently was estimated at around $120 million for direct health costs alone, let alone lost productivity, the likely impacts on tourism and the costs of mosquito control.
From 1 July MAF took over responsibility from the Ministry of Health for the ongoing surveillance of mosquitoes that may be found in salt marshes around New Zealand. The ministry of Health will continue mosquito surveillance at the country’s ports and airports.
‘This 11 year exercise and the associated costs reinforce how important it is that we continue to be vigilant around Biosecurity incursions,’ says Mr King.
‘I’m delighted with the outcome of this operation. It’s good to know the Wairau Lagoon is once again free of a particularly nasty pest that had the ability to do great harm.’