Citrus canker restrictions to be lifted in Darwin

Department of Primary Industry and Resources

Citrus canker restricted areas will be lifted in the Darwin, Palmerston and the rural areas from today, 20 March 2020, as this serious plant disease is moving towards being eradicated from the Northern Territory (NT).

A contagious plant disease, citrus canker was detected in the NT in 2018, affecting citrus plants including lemon, lime, mandarin and grapefruit, as well as some of our native citrus species.

The Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) is leading the national response to citrus canker, which poses a significant threat to Australia’s citrus industry, putting farms, jobs and livelihoods at risk.

Since 2018, 13 restricted areas were declared following detection of infected citrus plants at 16 premises throughout the Darwin and Katherine region. Restricted areas are a 600 metre zone around each of the infected premises, where citrus or other citrus canker host plants cannot be moved, grown or kept.

Quarantine restrictions on the Katherine restricted area were lifted in November 2019.

In the Darwin region, plant health inspectors have removed citrus canker host plants and materials with the consent of the property owners.

The DPIR’s Chief Plant Health Officer, Dr Anne Walters, said she was pleased with the progress and thanked the community of Darwin for their support.

“Without the support of the community in self-reporting and supporting our plant health inspectors visiting their properties, it would have been very difficult to move towards proving the Territory is free from citrus canker” she said.

Dr Walters explained that a designated minimum of six months without citrus canker host plants, known as the host free period, and no record of citrus canker disease during regrowth surveillance activities, was required for the restricted area to be lifted.

“This milestone is great news for the Darwin community as it allows residents and businesses in the former restricted areas to reintroduce, grow and cultivate citrus plants on their properties. It also allows unrestricted movement of citrus fruit and leaves into and out of the former restricted areas,” she said.

Control areas in Darwin and Katherine still remain in place to ensure citrus canker host plants or materials do not leave the control areas. The control areas include Darwin, Palmerston, the Darwin rural area, Bachelor, Adelaide River and Katherine. Maps of the control areas are available on the NT Government website.

The Territory-led national response program will now focus on establishing the required evidence to prove that the Territory is free from citrus canker by the end of 2020. In turn, this will allow Australia to declare the country free from citrus canker.

This milestone follows on from the much welcomed movement protocols in July 2018 and May 2019, agreed by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. These protocols allowed NT citrus fruit growers and kaffir lime leaf growers to recommence selling their leaves interstate, which has been essential to support the $250,000 per annum horticultural sector in the NT.

“Maintaining good biosecurity practices is paramount and we ask the public not to move or share citrus plants unnecessarily during the final proof of freedom phase of the program,” said Dr Walters.

Protecting the NT and the rest of Australia from pests and diseases that threaten the environment, agriculture and agribusiness is everyone’s responsibility.

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