Speeches

Speech to Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity forum

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 14:39
Primary Industries

Greetings and welcome. Obviously this week has been a fairly busy one as we deal with an appalling threat to sabotage our food products.

The Government has been well-prepared for this and we believe any risk is low. It could well be a hoax, but we are taking it seriously.

We now have a comprehensive new 1080 testing regime for dairy products that gives us a high degree of confidence. MPI has also analysed the supply chain in detail and worked with manufacturers to put in place additional security measures

It reinforces once again the importance of our primary industries to the New Zealand economy, and the integrity of our food production system.

It confirms MPI’s strategy of ‘Grow and Protect’.

It is also why biosecurity has been my number priority since I became Minister. 

We all know that a major biosecurity incursion is one of the most serious, if not the most serious, threats to our economy.

I don’t need to remind this audience why it’s so important. We are fortunate in New Zealand to be free of so many pests and diseases that are prevalent overseas, and which could do huge damage to our primary industries.

Our access into many overseas markets is reliant on high standards of biosecurity.

Fruit fly incursion

It’s very appropriate that I talk to you about the importance of biosecurity today, given the recent fruit fly discovery in Auckland.

MPI has a full response underway and they are doing a very good job. We have a small localised population in Grey Lynn that we are now targeting with sprays, bait and more traps.

I have every confidence that we can eradicate this entire population very effectively. We’ve done this kind of thing before and we have experienced staff who know what they are doing.

I’ve visited the operations three times in the last few weeks and I’m very impressed with the efforts underway. I want to thank the public of Grey Lynn who have been very patient and supportive with this response.

GIAs

There are two industry partners sitting around the table with MPI on the Response Governance Group for Queensland Fruit Fly, and it’s pleasing to see industry and Government working well together.

This first example of GIA-in-action in a large response, reinforces my determination that this Agreement is the enduring model for how MPI and industry engage in biosecurity readiness and response, from here on in.

I would hope that those of you considering joining up to GIA, will be looking at what is happening with Queensland Fruit Fly and seeing the value in doing so. 

Equine New Zealand and Pork New Zealand are also GIA signatories.

Recent measures

It’s disappointing this incursion occurred, but we know that from time to time there will be incursions and that’s why we have a multi-layered biosecurity system to detect these pests and eliminate them.

We have measures in place offshore, at the border, and within New Zealand to prevent pests becoming established here.

We have 7,500 fruit fly traps around the country and this detection shows they are working as they should.

MPI has been on high alert over summer given the major outbreak of Queensland fruit fly in various parts of Australia.

In recent weeks MPI has introduced more stringent risk assessment of all pathways -cargo, craft, mail and passengers - and heightened awareness by front line quarantine inspectors.

This includes more international air passengers’ luggage now going through x-ray and 100% passenger and luggage screening by an MPI Detector Dog at international airports. Dogs are the most effective tool for detecting fruit and other food.

This could mean some inconvenience for inbound passengers, but is necessary given the risk to New Zealand.

It’s worth noting that every passenger arriving from Australia is already screened and assessed by an MPI officer.

I have heard some critical comments on the direct exit green lane, but I would point out these passengers are the lowest risk and have the highest rate of compliance.

There are likely to be further changes at the border, because the biosecurity system is constantly evolving. We never sit back and say ‘job done’; we are constantly looking for new threats and considering how we can do things even better.

Context

In the last two years we’ve beefed up the frontline with 130 new quarantine inspectors, the number of detector dog teams has increased from 26 to 40, and we have 15 new x-ray machines installed at our international airports.

We are building a new $65m biocontainment laboratory lab in Wallaceville.

There is major work underway on FMD preparation, including sending staff and vets to Asia for first-hand experience.

Overall funding for biosecurity is now higher than when we came into office.

But even if we completely stopped all trade to and from New Zealand, even if we halted all movement of people in and out of New Zealand – something I’m sure no one in this room wants - we would still not completely eliminate all risk.

So the question is how we best manage this risk

It’s worth giving a bit of context to show you the size of the challenge we face.

Around 175,000 items come across our border each day.

We have around 11 million passengers crossing our borders every year.

So what we need to do, and what MPI do, is to work smartly to manage risk at every level of the biosecurity system and to provide the best level of protection.

The GIA model allows us to do this work more closely with the help and input of industry.

Summary

That is an important message I want to finish on – that biosecurity is the responsibility of everyone, not just the Government, and that the system is stronger when we are all working together.

Biosecurity in NZ is about partnership between Government, regional councils, industry, iwi, the scientific and education community and the wider public.

GIA is an emerging force and can only lead to positive outcomes in my view. Stay focussed, committed and together we will be stronger.