The Biosecurity Portfolio And The Establishment Of A Biosecurity Council

  • Simon Upton

The new Biosecurity Council, meeting for the first time today, will provide a much clearer focus for guarding New Zealand's biosecurity, according to Simon Upton, the new Minister for Biosecurity.

`Biosecurity' refers to the protection of New Zealand's natural resources from organisms capable of causing unwanted harm. Mr Upton says, ``as trade and tourism grows, government agencies have to be able to assess increasing levels of risk accurately and stand ready to respond when necessary''.

In December 1996 the Prime Minister appointed a Minister for Biosecurity, responsible for the administration of the Biosecurity Act and for its co-ordinated implementation. The Minister announced today that New Zealand's total biosecurity effort can be co-ordinated without setting up a separate Department and disrupting present organisational responsibilities.

To this end Mr Upton has announced the establishment of a Biosecurity Council to set biosecurity priorities and determine clearly the responsibility for newly identified risks. ``It will also provide a forum for the discussion of broad policy issues and programmes associated with
managing exotic pests,'' he said.

Under the Biosecurity Act a number of Departments have biosecurity responsibilities, including the Department of Conservation and the Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry and Health. The funding allocated for Biosecurity for each of those government agencies will be
grouped together in the Estimates, so enabling the Biosecurity Minister to hold officials accountable for the delivery of biosecurity services.

The Biosecurity Council will have an independent chairman, Dr John Hellstrom, (currently Operations Director, Mallinckrodt Veterinary Limited). It
will comprise the chief executives of departments with biosecurity responsibilities, any Chief Technical Officers appointed under the Biosecurity Act, the Chief Scientist (from MoRST) and a representative each from the Regional Councils and ERMA (the Environmental Risk Management Authority).

Mr Upton also announced the establishment of a Pest Management Strategy Advisory Committee, comprising of representatives from regional councils and national pest management strategy proponent groups (such as the Animal Health Board or National Beekeepers Association).

Pest management strategies, be they regional or national, have to date been developed for the management of endemic pests (such as possums and rabbits). As such, the proponent groups face a very different set of problems to those departments represented on the Biosecurity
Council which deal with new pest incursions.

``This committee will ensure consistency in approach to the development and resourcing of pest management strategies,'' concluded Mr Upton.