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Firms sign up to protect borders

PRIMARY industry business leaders are stepping up their biosecurity responsibilities and encouraging others to back the cause as part of good business risk management.

At a ceremony in Auckland on Thursday 50 dairy, meat processing and horticultural companies signed the Biosecurity Business Pledge, which commits them to playing their part in efforts to prevent pests and diseases getting into the country and helping stop their spread if they do.

They aim to do so by integrating proactive biosecurity practices into their operations and supply chains.

As well as improved early engagement with Biosecurity New Zealand on emerging issues and risks there will be better opportunities to work together through quarterly biosecurity updates and more regular alerts.

Supporting organisations include the Dairy Companies Association, the Meat Industry Association, Horticulture NZ and Federated Farmers. Biosecurity Minister Damien O‘Connor said NZ is unique in being entirely dependent on biological systems for its exports, tourism and lifestyle. 

The pledge aims to improve the partnership between the Government and businesses, preventing unnecessary costs and disruptions for businesses, communities and the wider economy.

Farmers wondering what they might have to face in the future should feel more secure with the increased level of biosecurity protection the pledge will give. And everyday New Zealanders who no longer see international airline staff spraying aerosols before flights arrive will be reminded more frequently about biosecurity risks. O’Connor said there are 33 active biosecurity responses going and boats will be turned around if they are thought to harbour pests such as the brown marmorated stink bug. About 1200 import health standards are being reviewed as part of an upgrade of biosecurity laws, which will take two to three years.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us but we want a fair, robust system that works for imports and exports.”

Miraka chief executive Richard Wyeth said every New Zealander has a role to play in biosecurity. “It takes all of us to protect what we’ve got.” Biosecurity is one of dairy companies’ top shared priorities because any lapse could have a catastrophic effect. “The reality is that every container we use has been imported,” he said. “NZ can’t be a fortress but we must actively manage biosecurity risks.” He looks forward to working with other companies that have signed the pledge because there is a significant opportunity for them to learn from each other. “We have a strong role to play in biosecurity and we’re stepping up to play that role.”

Trevalyan Pack and Cool packs 10% of the country’s kiwifruit and avocado production. Its managing director James Trevalyan talked about the personal effects of the discovery of Psa in 2010. “I realised we had to change,” he said.

Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) had given the industry a range of tools and the links created led to the formation of Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital and now the pledge, which his company had signed. “We need to understand what goes on so we can be part of a bigger change,” he said. “It’s an absolute no-brainer for us. Let’s get behind it.”

Biosecurity Border Clearance Services’ central and southern regional commissioner Steve Gilbert said there will be more frontline quarantine officers this summer, at 620 compared with 570 last year. Indications are stink bugs are just as prolific in Europe as last season, which was challenging. There have been 33 countries added to the list of those needing pre-clearance for the pest before exports come to NZ. “We’re taking an educational approach but if we don’t see what we want we will delist and we will carry on randomly auditing at the wharves,” he said.

Other issues are vessels being turned away from NZ ports because of bio-fouling and cross-contamination of vehicles pre-cleared in Japan being parked next to those not being imported. Random audits and document checks on containers will be used to stop people who make a conscious decision to smuggle pork, despite the risk of African swine fever coming into the country.

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Posted: Mon 04 Nov 2019