Stronger biosecurity to protect the foundations of our primary sector

  • Hon Damien O’Connor
Agriculture Biosecurity Food Safety Rural Communities

The Coalition Government is delivering on its commitment to strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity system and support our valuable primary sector, says Agriculture, Biosecurity, Rural Communities and Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor.

“New Zealand’s flora, fauna and livestock are the foundations of our primary sector, rural communities and economy,” says Damien O’Connor.

“It has become clear that further investment in biosecurity is needed as our global trade and tourist numbers increase. We’ve just had our busiest biosecurity summer on record, with 2 million passengers screened at the border between December and February and 4,000 fines handed out – mostly for undeclared fresh produce, which can carry the destructive fruit fly.

“When I took up this job six months ago, the Ministry for Primary Industries had several biosecurity responses under way – including Mycoplasma bovis, myrtle rust, Bonamia ostreae and kauri dieback. We have also had to turn around ships carrying the brown marmorated stink bug – a pest that would devastate not only our horticulture sector but homes and gardens as well.

“The Coalition Government’s biosecurity initiatives receive $9.3 million in new operating funding in Budget 2018 over the next four years to improve our offshore biosecurity systems to better manage the risks posed by imports. We will also speed up the review of import health standards.

“Our plan makes sure the exotic pests and diseases that could devastate our economy and wildlife have less chance of making it here in the first place, giving growers and farmers greater certainty about the health of their crops and animals.

“This Government’s leadership will improve the resilience of our primary sector. We moved quickly this year to put up $85 million new operating funding in 2017/18 for the frontline response to Mycoplasma bovis in partnership with the primary sector.

“We will provide an update on the next steps of our plan to deal with Mycoplasma bovis in coming weeks. This disease is a regrettable example of why we need to properly fund biosecurity in New Zealand. Budget 2018 marks the first steps in rebuilding the foundations of our primary sector.

“The performance of rural communities is critical to this Government’s aspirations to transform our economy into one that is sustainable for future generations. A chief concern for me has been the underfunding of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) during a time of increasing workload.

“Budget 2018 addresses this with new operating funding of $38 million over two years for MPI to ensure our primary sector is well supported by Government initiatives as we work together to grow New Zealand’s reputation as the most trusted source of sustainable and premium natural products in the world.

“This Government is already reorganising MPI to house four business units so officials can concentrate on their core responsibilities of biosecurity, food safety, fisheries and forestry.

“People around the world are increasingly buying products that align with their values. New Zealand has a natural advantage, with a good record of animal welfare, grass-fed stock and brand recognition. We are determined to help this continue by properly funding MPI and our critical biosecurity system,” says Damien O’Connor.