Two years after the deadly kiwifruit vine killing disease Psa-V broke out in the Bay of Plenty, the Government has announced a further support package for growers threatened with the loss of their livelihoods as Psa cuts a swath through the North Island.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter has declared Psa a medium-scale biosecurity event, triggering a policy to provide assistance.
Psa is now in 69 per cent of the former $1 billion-plus export industry’s orchards and has been found in 20 of the Waikato’s 131 orchards.
Immediately after the November 2009 discovery in Te Puke of the disease, believed by Otago University researchers to have come from China, the Government committed $25 million in a dollar-for-dollar partnership fund with the kiwifruit industry to manage the disease.
Carter said there had been ‘‘a noticeable time lag before it began to affect orchard incomes’’.
‘‘Psa has presented an unprecedented challenge for growers. Assistance is needed to cope with uncertainty, to introduce orchard management changes and to make the right business decisions,’’ said Carter.
The package of support includes:
- recovery co-ordinators to provide on-one one recovery help to growers
- provision of grower welfare care by local providers
- rural assistance payments for growers suffering extreme hardship
- reimbursement of costs incurred by volunteers on a case by case basis
Carter said recovery support had already been available to eligible growers through Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development, including flexible tax provisions and hardship assistance.
Industry agency Kiwifruit Vine Health welcomed the Government’s recognition of Psa has an adverse event.
Many industry initiatives were in place to support growers, including counselling, pastoral care, well-being meetings and information, said KVH and grower spokesman Ian Greaves.
But this had been funded by the industry and had been a real challenge, he said.
The committment from the Government was a "welcome relief’".
It could be difficult for a grower to deal with the stress and anxiety associated with Psa alone, Greaves said.
The Waikato contributed 3 per cent of New Zealand’s gold kiwifruit exports, and 20 per cent of the country’s organic crop.
The local sector’s 60 growers provided jobs for 150 people, rising to 300 at harvest time.
Psa-V, the virulent form of the bacterial disease, was discovered in the region near Te Awamutu in August this year.
- © Fairfax NZ News