Frequently Asked Questions

Could didymo spread to lakes throughout New Zealand?

Yes. Although didymo prefers a river environment with clear water flowing over stable substrate at depths sufficient for light penetration to drive photosynthesis, blooms have been found in South Island Lakes. Lake Wakatipu, for example, contains visible didymo on some parts of the lake shore.

Is Gum leaf skeletoniser dangerous?

The gum leaf skeletoniser caterpillar is covered with protective spines that sting and may cause irritation. The stiff spines are hollow and contain venom, which can be injected into the human skin upon contact. This often results in local pain (sometimes severe) and welts (swollen patches on the skin) that tend to become itchy. The reaction to gum leaf skeletoniser may last for many days. Note that the spines of dead caterpillars or on shed skin retain their ability to sting.

In case of reaction to gum leaf skeletoniser caterpillars, the following first aid is advisable:

  1. Apply ice packs to the exposed area.
  2. In case of eye contact, wash area thoroughly and seek medical attention.
  3. If ingestion of caterpillar occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
  4. If symptoms develop beyond the immediate area of the sting (e.g. widespread rash, shortness of breath or collapse) call an ambulance straight away.

Biosecurity NZ has prepared fact sheets providing more specific public health information:

For further information, see Derraik JGB. 2006. Erucism in New Zealand: exposure to gum leaf skeletoniser (Uraba lugens) caterpillars in the differential diagnosis of contact dermatitis in the Auckland region. New Zealand Medical Journal 119 (1241) (offsite link to

I sell plants that NPPA has flagged for banning, will I get compensation for lost sales?

There is no compensation under the Biosecurity Act for people who lose sales of a plant on the Accord. However the parties will be working with those affected to minimise losses.

Are fish, eels and other foods taken from lakes and rivers affected by didymo safe to eat?


Is mail coming to New Zealand also checked?

Quarantine Officers, assisted by an X-ray machine and detector dog, inspect all parcels entering New Zealand at the International Mail Centre. There are regular interceptions of risk goods, which include fresh produce, seeds, plants and straw items. Recipients of restricted items are given the option of having goods treated and returned to them at their expense.

When can my dog/cat from Australia arrive and be given biosecurity clearance at the border?

Provided advance notification of arrival has been given at least 72 hours ahead of the scheduled time of arrival, and the time of arrival falls within the following times, biosecurity clearance for compliant animals will be given at the border.

0530 to 1830 hours (weekdays only)

1200 to 1800 hours (weekdays only)

1330 to 1630 hours (weekdays only)

If a cat or dog arrives outside the above hours, or arrives on a public holiday, or is not compliant with the requirements, or advance notification has not been given, they will be sent to an approved quarantine facility and must remain there until biosecurity clearance is given (within 72 hours).

How will I know that my Electronic BACC Application has been processed by the Risk Screener?

Once the Risk Screener takes the Electronic BACC Application from the Inbound Messaging queue and processes it, you will receive a consignment reference number and then (assuming they have all the required information) the issued BACC. The Application will now have a unique number within QuanCargo. The BACC will continue to be issued using the current methods of fax or e-mail. Additionally ECN and MPI are working on providing an alternative via ECN.

Can I apply for an exemption to use or sell a prohibited glueboard trap?

The Minister of Agriculture may approve the use or sale of a glueboard trap that would otherwise be prohibited only if he/she considers that the approval is in the public interest and no viable alternative is available in the circumstances. Matters in the public interest include for biosecurity, conservation, public health or animal health purposes.

Applications for an exemption must be made to the Director-General of MAF in the first instance. Applicants must provide relevant information to support their application. MAF cannot consider applications received without relevant supporting information.

An application form will shortly be available on the Traps and Devices page. On the form, please note the timeframes you are working to and whether your application is urgent. MAF will do its best to respond to applications within 15 working days.

Applications must be made in writing and addressed to:

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
PO Box 2526

or by email to:

Is painted apple moth harmful to people?

Some people may be allergic to the caterpillar’s hairs.

What are the possible consequences of varroa on the bee population?

The whole bee population is at risk from the mite. Numbers of mites in a colony typically build up over a year or so, until they are sufficient to kill the colony if it is not treated. The mite will wipe out most wild (or feral) bees, as they will not be treated by a beekeeper to control varroa levels. Only well-managed bee colonies will survive the arrival of varroa.