Speeches

Speech to the B3 biosecurity conference

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 10:43
Primary Industries

As you know, I’ve always said that biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister.

That’s because it underpins all of our other goals. We want to double the value of our primary sector exports by 2025, but we can’t do that unless we protect ourselves from pests and diseases.

Today I want to give a bit of context on what we’ve achieved over the last few years, the challenges ahead of us, and the importance of all sectors working together.

What we’ve done in recent years

In Budget 2015 I was proud to announce $27 million in new funding for biosecurity. As a result of that, MPI has employed 90 new front line biosecurity staff and introduced 24 new biosecurity detector dog teams.

MPI has also introduced new x-ray scanning machines, including a mobile unit that can be moved between different ports to help clear cruise ship passengers.

We’ve increased offshore audit capability to ensure that biosecurity risks are managed by producers and exporters before goods get to New Zealand

MPI have enhanced profiling and targeting of risk passengers, and increased biosecurity awareness activities.

An example of this is advertising aimed at getting Chinese people living in New Zealand to encourage friends and family visiting here to check what they can and can’t bring into the country.

The campaign includes print ads in Chinese newspapers here, social media and online ads.

A lot of work has gone into preparedness through response simulation exercises involving multiple government agencies and industry.

A highlight for me last year was the Auditor-General’s follow-up report on biosecurity responses and preparedness, showing that MPI has made very good progress. It’s very rare for the Auditor-General to make no further new recommendations, so that is a very positive sign.

As part of that preparedness, work is well underway on building a new $87 million biocontainment lab at Wallaceville in Upper Hutt.

Another recent move that helps raises biosecurity awareness and encourages compliance is an in-flight video of an animated beagle, Officer Goodboy. This reinforces with passengers the importance of declaring and disposing of risk items that pose a biosecurity risk to New Zealand. Around half the airlines flying into New Zealand are currently showing the video and this is likely to increase.

On 1 January this year the Border Clearance Levy came into effect which shifts the costs of border clearance activities onto passengers travelling internationally, rather than the taxpayer. This will provides a more sustainable funding platform for clearance activities into the future.

Next week New Zealand is hosting a trans-tasman meeting with Australian Ministers of Agriculture where biosecurity will be a key topic, especially Queensland Fruit Fly and our shared work on foot and mouth preparedness.

I also want to acknowledge the members of the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee – BMAC – who provide me with good independent advice.

Emerging challenges

Of course in biosecurity, the job is never done. We can never rest on our laurels, because we always need to be scanning the horizon for upcoming challenges. This is why these events today and the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) research partnership are so important.

As you’ve heard from Veronica Herrera today, we face emerging risks and opportunities.

Over the last decade:

  • air passengers to New Zealand have increased by almost 50 percent;
  • the number of containers crossing our borders has increased more than a third; and
  • mail parcels have more than doubled.

In 2014/15 the New Zealand border saw about 11.5 million arriving and departing passengers and crew. This number is forecast to grow by 3.5% every year.

In addition to increased volumes, changing risk profiles in terms of places of origin and both man-made and natural entry pathways (airborne and oceanic routes) increase the complexity.

A number of incursions have been testing our biosecurity response system and capability since the last B3 Conference, such as Queensland Fruit Fly and Tau fly in Auckland which have been successfully eradicated.

This autumn we’ve also had Velvetleaf as a major focus. The search and destroy phase has completed and we are now moving to long term management with a focus on progressively containing the geographic spread of velvetleaf, and local eradications where possible.

MPI has worked closely each time with scientists and the industries involved to maximise the scientific capability, and use the best evidence available to inform decision-making.

Biosecurity 2025

These emerging challenges are why last year I asked MPI to start work on the 2025 Biosecurity Strategy. The aim is to provide a clear direction for the biosecurity system and identify any changes or improvements needed over the next 10 years.

The result of this review will be a Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement, providing a future direction for the system developed in consultation with all New Zealanders.

Developed with input from biosecurity stakeholders, Māori and the public, this will ultimately update and replace the 2003 Biosecurity Strategy.

Five key areas of focus have been identified to address the foreseen future challenges. These are:

Everyone actively participates in biosecurity – Involving all New Zealanders in biosecurity is crucial to deal with increasing pressures on the biosecurity system.

Managing biosecurity risks pre-border, at-border and post-border is a colossal task that must be shared by all those who care for New Zealand so everyone can enjoy the benefits of having such a unique biodiversity and premium biosecurity status.

New Zealanders must be the eyes and ears of the biosecurity system, and our businesses need to understand and manage the biosecurity risks related to their activities. 

New and better tools – having access to the right tools and technologies to undertake the different parts of the biosecurity job is essential. From detection and diagnostics through to response and pest management, innovation will help us respond to the increasing and changing pressures.

Faster and better use of information – information is a corner stone of the biosecurity system. It supports evidence-based risk assessment, effective risk management and awareness of various audiences, from stakeholders to the wider public.

Effective leadership and governance – the number of participants, often with diverging interests, and the wide range of activities undertaken, make New Zealand’s biosecurity system one of the most complex in the world. This requires effective and inclusive leadership at all levels.

The best skills and assets for the future – there would not be an effective biosecurity system without the right capacity and capability to support its activities. The foundation of a successful, resilient biosecurity system is a capable workforce and high-quality, fit-for-purpose infrastructure.

As a country, we need to nurture, attract and retain the technical knowledge and expert skills at every level and across all functions within the biosecurity system. To achieve this, MPI is already working with the education sector to promote biosecurity and primary industries as a career path.

One small example of this is the competition MPI is running with schools to name the new detector dog puppies. It has generated a lot of interest and got people talking, and at the same time is a great way of subtly educating people on what MPI does and the importance of biosecurity.

As well as people, we also need good infrastructure. This includes buildings, collections and information platforms. I mentioned earlier the National Biocontainment Laboratory at Wallaceville as an important example of this.

Technology

Much of this is happening already. For example, new technology and innovation are helping us achieve these goals and meet the emerging challenges.

MPI is gearing up to capitalise on research and technology innovations, and adopt an entrepreneurial approach to its vision “Grow and Protect”.

For example, automated pest control tools and electronic noses to sniff out risk goods have great potential.

Social media and online tools have revolutionised the way we communicate and share information. These give us a real opportunity to increase public participation in biosecurity activities and achievements, and build a greater awareness of the risks to our country.  

Industry and Government partnering in biosecurity

I talked earlier on how biosecurity has to be a shared responsibility, and a good example of that in action is the Government Industry Agreement (GIA).

GIA is a partnership to manage pests and diseases that could badly damage New Zealand's primary industries, economy, and environment. The central idea is that we can achieve better biosecurity outcomes by working together.

Signatories share the decision-making, responsibilities and costs of preparing for, and responding to, biosecurity incursions.

Current GIA partners include NZ Citrus Growers Inc, New Zealand Avocado Growers Association, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Pipfruit New Zealand, New Zealand Pork, New Zealand Equine Health Association, Onions New Zealand and the New Zealand Forestry Owners Association, along with MPI representing the Government. I’m keen to see more sectors partner with us through the GIA. 

Today MPI and industry partners Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), Avocados, Pipfruit and Citrus have signed the Fruit Fly Operational Agreement, the first of its type under the GIA.

This provides a formal structure to the way that Government and industry will work together to prevent and mitigate the risk of fruit fly through coordinated readiness and response activities.

Port of Tauranga initiative

Another great example is the ‘Biosecurity Operational Excellence’ project at the Port of Tauranga.

Government, local government and industry organisations such as Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) have worked together to strengthen screening and surveillance programmes at the port, and to trial innovative measures to support biosecurity programmes.

MPI is providing biosecurity induction for new port users, along with education updates and improving signage. For example a 2016 biosecurity calendar was developed with photos of pests most likely to be found for each month.

This port is the largest in the country in terms of total cargo volume, the second largest in terms of container throughput, and is a major stop on the cruise ship circuit.

This heightened awareness means the port now has hundreds of extra eyes and ears every day.

Conclusion

I want to finish by thanking you again for your hard work and interest in what is a hugely important area for New Zealand.

There is a lot happening in biosecurity, and a lot more work to be done with your input and help.

As a government we are committed to working with you to protect our borders.

Thank you.