David Carter - extreme biosecurity risk | The Jackal

17 Feb 2012

David Carter - extreme biosecurity risk

Today, TVNZ reported:

Around 500 kiwifruit growers will meet today in Te Puke over the Psa disease crippling their orchards.

The growers face the elimination of the gold kiwifruit strain and dire financial problems, said the meeting organiser Rob Thode.

More than 1,000 hectares of orchard in the Bay of Plenty region has been lost to the virus and it is now being seen in South Auckland.

Growers accuse Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) of allowing the virus, which is spread by air, to get into the country because of low biosecurity standards.

They say overseas pollen is allowed to get into the country, whereas in other nations it is illegal.

Kiwifruit growers will come to the meeting tabling six demands, including the Government taking responsibility and admitting the virus is a biosecurity failure, as well as deeming it "New Zealand's biggest ever agricultural disaster" and an "adverse event".

Biosecurity is something we cannot afford to get wrong. Not only does our economy rely on many industries that are susceptible to foreign viruses, pests and diseases, our current financial situation is precarious and cannot adequately meet the costs associated with another major breech in New Zealand's biosecurity.

Considering our isolation, we should be able to effectively mitigate biohazards. They simply should not be reaching our shores, and if they do, there should be an effective procedure in place to ensure they do not get anywhere near our productive industries. This of course relies on proper boarder control, which in turn relies on proper funding.

In their first term as government, National reduced MAF staffing numbers by 55 and reduced their frontline biosecurity budget by more than NZ$2 million. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that this means less biosecurity and an increased risk to our productive industries.

Last year, National's Minister for Primary Industries David Carter introduced the Biosecurity Law Reform Bill, which proposed further reductions to New Zealand's biosecurity measures. This is exactly the opposite of what should be happening.

We already have Chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica), the Varroa Mite (Varroa destructor) and Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae) to name a few hazards that have breeched our biosecurity... the cost of which can be measured in the billions of dollars. Why would we reduce security measures further when the consequences of doing so are financially disastrous?