Our reliance on agriculture means it is critical that biosecurity policies are implemented that provide the rural economy with reassurance of protection from unwanted pests and diseases. Although the majority of focus for New Zealand biosecurity remains at the border, it is important to remember that biosecurity is more than just border protection and encompasses a whole framework, inclusive of international treaties, readiness, surveillance, incursion response and pest management.
Being an island nation with natural borders provides an advantage when it comes to biosecurity. Risk levels can be lowered at the border by various strategies such as x-rays, physical inspections and traveller profiling, but being a nation that relies on trade and tourism as our main income earners it is just not possible to reduce the incursion risk to zero. Based on this presumption it is important that biosecurity policies are based on scientifically-based risk principles.
To lower the risk of incursions, we support greater emphasis being placed on ways of pushing the biosecurity focus off-shore. Where possible imported containers, food products and machinery should be treated and inspected prior to arrival. We should not have to sort out a problem within New Zealand that has originated from a country where a pest or disease is present that could devastate our national economy. At the same time the policies should not be such that domestically imposed barriers or expenses should not include non tariff barriers which are not scientifically justifiable and which may impact on New Zealand’s international competitiveness or our ability to argue for free trade.
Tourists entering New Zealand must be educated on our biosecurity procedures prior to arrival, and suitable fines imposed when the rules are deliberately ignored.
Government Industry Agreements (GIAs) have been established to enhance biosecurity surveillance and response systems. GIAs are viewed as providing the opportunity for greater collaboration and communication between agricultural producers and Government in order to create better biosecurity outcomes. To be beneficial to the sector, GIAs must be a true, transparent and committed partnership rather than a transfer of costs from the farmer to Government. As an advocate for farmers, Federated Farmers, must continue to play a central role in the biosecurity system.
When it comes to pest management we need on-going investment to ensure we have the tools to protect the country’s environment and economy. Many of our tools are now unavailable for use due to trade, environmental and public pressures, they no longer work, or are just not feasible to use. To ensure we stay on top of the pest problem novel approaches to pest management are required. This includes making better use of information technology, gaining a better understanding of pest biology, developing more specialist research scientists and improving public engagement.
Working in partnership is the best way to progress the management of our pests. Industry is keen to be involved and sharing the load makes success a lot more feasible. If we can keep talking and bring the general public alongside, then the future of managing our harmful pests is tangible. After all protection of our environment and economy benefits all New Zealanders, and that is what biosecurity is all about.