Earlier this week Kerikeri man John Levers succeeded in persuading the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to reconsider whether the horticultural spray Hi-Cane should be allowed in New Zealand.
The spray was last re-assessed by the EPA in 2006 but since then a European study has raised concerns about its effect on bystanders, spray operators, groundwater and birdlife. It was banned by the European Food Safety Authority in 2008. The EPA is expected to take about six months to complete its re-assessment.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Nikki Johnson said, however, that Hi-Cane was an essential tool ensuring economically-viable levels of production on kiwifruit orchards: ''Without the use of Hi-Cane, the amount of flowers and fruit produced in many of the country's growing districts would become uneconomic, especially in warm winters.''
The industry has previously said no effective replacement for Hi-Cane is currently available, though research is continuing into some promising alternatives. That is disputed by Levers, who maintains alternatives are already on the market.
The guidelines for using Hi-Cane include no spraying on windy days and a 10m setback from the property boundary for orchards bordering "sensitive areas" such as homes, waterways or public roads. If there is no shelterbelt or screen to catch spray drift the required setback is 30m.