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An Australian ship detained at Wellington's port this week was found to be "crawling with beetles", Biosecurity New Zealand says.
The AAL Brisbane was found to have an infestation of the plague soldier beetle Chauliognathus lugubris, a native of south-western and south-eastern Australia named for its habit of forming huge mating swarms and with potential to be harmful to New Zealand insects or carry diseases and other pests.
The ship, which arrived in Wellington to load a cargo of logs, was targeted for a full inspection on arrival by the Ministry for Primary Industries after a recent spate of live beetle finds on vessels arriving from Melbourne, the ministry says in a statement.
"The vessel underwent a full inspection. It was found to be literally crawling with hundreds of beetles," MPI spokesman Geoff Gwyn says. "The early warning shows our intelligence and surveillance system is working well and we are targeting vessels and cargo that have the highest risk."
MPI is checking whether there have been any breaches of the Biosecurity Act 1993 which could result in charges being laid.
The ship, which is registered to Singapore-based Austral Asia Line, was in the news in August after being detained by Maritime NZ when it docked at Wellington's CentrePort after a near miss at the harbour entrance, Fairfax media reported at the time.
The ministry is anxious to show it is succeeding in protecting New Zealand from imported pests after some of the blame for the arrival of the kiwifruit vine wasting disease Psa was sheeted home to government agencies.