Australian Fire Blight Report

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

The application process for New Zealand to export apples to Australia can resume following the release of a survey suggesting Australia is free of fire blight, Trade and Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith said today.

New Zealand would request that the issue be dealt with as a CER priority, he said.

New Zealand has been seeking to export apples to Australia since the 1920s. In April this year, Australia released a draft Import Risk Assessment which stated that New Zealand should not be able to export apples to Australia because of fire blight risk. New Zealand was preparing to challenge that draft decision when it was decided in July to suspend the process to enable Australia to undertake the survey released today.

Dr Smith said that New Zealand's submission was already being prepared and would be with the Australians shortly.

"Our submission will make clear to the Australians that we believe there is no scientifically-justifiable reason why New Zealand apples should not be able to be exported to Australia, regardless of whether Australia has fire blight or not," Dr Smith said.

"New research has suggested that the likelihood of apple exports causing an outbreak of fire blight is one in every 38,462 years. If the final decision is based on science our application should be accepted."

Dr Smith said he would not be commenting on whether New Zealand would pursue the matter to a World Trade Organisation disputes panel should our application not be successful.

Meanwhile, New Zealand MAF officials would carefully study the survey results suggesting Australia is fire blight free. Fire blight was discovered in Australia earlier this year.