Bring back the beagles and x-raying of passenger bags at airports – that’s the call from Horticulture New Zealand following the discovery of a fruit fly in Auckland.
HortNZ president Andrew Fenton of Te Puke says without the return of stricter board controls, scares like the latest one will happen on a regular basis, threatening this country’s $3.3 billion fruit and vegetable export industry.
No further Queensland fruit flies have been found since May 8 but biosecurity officials maintain strict controls and a large-scale field effort will continue for the next 10 days to ensure that if any of the insects were present, they would not able to spread from the Avondale area.
Andrew says growers and the country don’t want any more scares or a real incursion of insects or other pests and diseases and action must be taken now to prevent that happening.
“We want 100 per cent x-ray of all passengers arriving from offshore. And we want the beagles back at Wellington Airport.”
HortNZ believes this country might still be able to claim the world’s toughest biosecurity protection, but it’s not good enough for New Zealand’s growers.
“It’s got to the point where we are relying on 2000kms of sea to provide our biosecurity protection.
“We know where the fault lies. This Government’s determination to cut costs has now cost all of us big money, and risked billions of dollars in national earnings,” Andrew says.
HortNZ has confidence in the passionate and capable people working on the ground responding to this detection.
“We thank them for all their effort and also thank all the people in the controlled areas for their co-operation.
“But those people, and the rest of New Zealand, don’t want to be going through a scare like this every six months. That’s exactly what will happen if we don’t very quickly put back all the protection that’s quietly been taken away.
“We have heard too much about creating a ‘domestic-like travel experience’ and reducing passenger processing times. Biosecurity is a national issue. It is a serious business and can’t be compromised.”
HortNZ believes the Ministry of Primary Industries have cut too deep and now we are all paying the price. Long-serving, extremely knowledgeable and passionate staff have been lost.
Figures provided to HortNZ show a reduction in frontline biosecurity staff of 12 per cent since 2007, to just 280 people at airports country wide.
At the same time, passenger arrivals have increased by 14 per cent, from 4.3 million to 4.9million.
Wellington airport has had no detector dogs since September last year and nationally there are two less x-ray machines in service than there were two years ago.
“I have had former and current MPI staff tell me how worried they are. That makes me, and all 6000 growers HortNZ represents, very worried and very angry,” sasy Andrew.
The ‘Direct Exit’ policy, which aims to speed up a traveller’s trip by 15 minutes has been criticised by HortNZ in the past, and will be again if this Government’s policy does not change.
“We want the 100per cent x-ray back. We want all the beagles back. And it needs to happen now.”