If New Zealand’s fruit and vegetable growers are `ill-informed’ about New Zealand’s bio-security it is because the Ministry for Primary Industries is not keeping them informed about its border protection says the president of Horticulture New Zealand.
Te Puke kiwifruit grower and HortNZ president Andrew Fenton was responding to comments by Minister for Primary Industries David Carter at HortNZ’s conference on Tuesday.
Canine Operations officer Courtney Moore with detector dog Shyann and Primary Industries Minister David Carter.
“I was concerned that the minister said growers were ill-informed because if we are then MPI is not telling us all they are doing.”
David Carter gave one of the opening addresses at the two day conference and commented on extensive articles in two industry publications, The Grower and The Orchardist, which examined bio-security procedures and the proposed Government Industry Agreement.
The agreement will see growers sharing the costs involved in reacting to an incursion of a pest or disease, which made it across the border.
Growers are concerned at the costs and want assurances that everything is being done at the borders to stop incursions. Confidence has been shaken by the arrival 12-years-ago of the varroa mite which attacks bees, the kiwifruit vine-killing disease Psa-V in 2010 and in May this year the discovery of a single dead fruit fly in Auckland. The cost of the bio-security response to that insect was $1.5million.
Andrew has been on the receiving end of a disease which made it into New Zealand. The Te Puke kiwifruit grower has cut out his 4.5ha gold kiwifruit orchard because of Psa and is now re-grafting with a new variety.
He said growers are nervous about new bio-security protocols which allow some passengers ‘direct exit’ from their international flights into New Zealand, a move away from x-raying all luggage, a reduction in sniffer dogs at airports, plus changes to inspections for shipping containers of household effects.
In order to be reassured bio-security procedures are the best they can be, Andrew says growers want closer communication with MPI.
HortNZ has 6000 members and its grower groups say bio-security is among their biggest concerns and most were currently reluctant to become involved in a GIA scheme, he says.
Some of those concerns were answered to a degree by a workshop on Tuesday afternoon where MPI Director General of Verification Systems Roger Smith explained the rationale behind ‘direct exit’, not x-raying all luggage and changes to inspections of some shipping containers.
He says the ministry is working smarter by directing its resources towards what research shows are the greatest risks. New Zealand and Australian passengers are nine times less likely to bring in unwanted pests and diseases than other travellers so bio-security staff are focusing on those who are more likely to present a risk.
X-raying every bag does not detect all possible bio-security threats and if relied upon too much in effect ‘dumbed down’ procedures because other checks were less likely to be carried out.
Household effects in shipping containers have also been shown to be of little risk, but it was the container itself which could harbour unwanted insects so the focus is on the containers.
Roger says 40 new bio-security staff have just been recruited and the first of four new Labrador detector dogs have completed training and are now in action at airports. More will be trained in coming months.