Stink bugs are causing a major issue for New Zealand’s automotive industry.
There’s a problem down under. Several container ships from Japan carrying thousands of new and used automobiles have become infested with brown marmorated stink bugs. These Asiatic natives are an invasive species in New Zealand and could potentially decimate local crops and wildlife.
But protecting the delicate New Zealand ecosystem is coming at the cost of the New Zealand car market, as 10,000 cars are now stuck in the middle of the ocean, unable to be delivered.
"In my 15 years in this role, and probably 30 years involved in this industry, I have not seen anything which is as serious as this," said David Vinsen, CEO of New Zealand's Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association, to CNN Money.
Vinsen cut short a family vacation to deal with the stinky emergency. Not only are 10,000 cars sitting in the ocean, a further 8,000 are still in Japan waiting to be delivered. Since the container ships aren’t able to off-load their precious cargo they can’t return to Japan to continue making deliveries.
The cars held hostage by stink bugs are of all makes and models, according to Vinsen.
As a result of the emergency, New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries announced Tuesday that “all used vehicles (cars and trucks) to undergo inspection and cleaning at an MPI-approved facility in Japan prior to export."
"The move is the result of an unprecedented spike in the number of stink bugs arriving at the border from Japan in bulk carriers," the Ministry added.
Stink bugs are a non-native species in New Zealand which are resistant to approved pesticides. If New Zealand were to become infested, it would require them to adopt stronger pesticides which could prove to be even more deadly to local wildlife than the invasive bugs. Because of this, both New Zealand and nearby Australia are fiercely protective of their local ecosystem.
However, the disruption caused by the bugs is proving detrimental to the local economy. Workers that would normally be processing these cars are instead being sent home early or forced to take early vacation as the cars wait in a watery limbo.
“People are concerned about their jobs," said Vinsen. "So we need to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible."