Eggs from Asian gypsy moths, considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the world, has been found during border checks on an imported Japanese car at the Ports of Auckland.
A quarantine inspector found the eggs on the car's wheel, Ministry of Primary Industries manager Stu Rawnsley said.
Rawnsley said border staff at the port had been on high alert for Asian gypsy moth eggs following reports from Japan that this year's moth season was likely to be "heavy".
"We have also had reports from Canadian and United States authorities that the number of egg masses on vessels arriving in their ports from Asia is increasing."
Asian gypsy moths are considered to be one of the most serious forest insect pests in the world. They have caused widespread damage and severe economic impacts in the northern hemisphere.
Rawnsley said the find proved border checks were working.
The ministry has staff based in Japan who verify systems for cleaning and inspecting used vehicles coming to New Zealand.
"This programme, combined with our own border inspections, provides a layered approach to combating biosecurity threats that has reduced the amount of egg mass finds we have had over the last few years."
Inspectors also paid particular attention to vessels that had visited high-risk ports.
"The moths are attracted to vessels at night and lay eggs behind light fittings and inside hatch covers where they are open for loading cargo."
In March 2003 a live adult gypsy moth was caught in an early warning trap in Hamilton. The find resulted in a large scale response by the then Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
No more moths have been caught since then.
- © Fairfax NZ News