Minister Creecy must provide urgent guidance on borer beetle threat

Issued by Dave Bryant MP – DA Shadow Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries
26 May 2022 in News

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dave Bryant MP.

The DA has noted with concern the potential threat to South Africa’s trees from the invasive polyphagous shot hole borer beetle. It is reportedly estimated that the damage resulting from the borer infestation could total hundreds of billions of Rands. Our country’s fragile economy simply cannot handle such a devastating loss.

The invasive beetle spreads a fungus that kills the host tree. It has been identified in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces, estimated to be the largest global outbreak. The beetle infests over a hundred different plant species across various climates and terrains, and it is not yet known exactly which trees and other plant species will be impacted. An infestation is usually terminal for large trees such as oaks, which grow in many established suburban areas. Falling branches from these trees provide further hazards to people and infrastructure.

It is reported that there are currently not enough chemicals available in South Africa to address such a large-scale infestation and the likelihood is that the infected trees will instead need to be removed and destroyed, at massive cost. Municipalities will likely be expected to carry these costs, along with the private sector. Identification and procurement of suitable chemicals should be made a priority.

Minister Creecy must advise urgently as to how national government intends to assist with a coordinated response to the shot hole borer threat. The infestation threatens not only private and municipal trees, but will also likely impact plantations managed by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DFFE).

We call on the Minister to convene an emergency meeting with all spheres of government to plan the way forward and provide guidance and support. Time is of the essence and we cannot afford to wait.