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'Short-term' hit from MPI's stink bug strategy worth it

Used car import body says 'short-term' hit from MPI's stink bug strategy worth it

By Rebecca Howard

Feb. 20 (BusinessDesk) - The Ministry for Primary Industries has introduced new measures to reduce the risk of brown marmorated stink bugs arriving in used vehicles and machinery from Japan, but any impact on domestic importers will be "relatively short term," says the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association.

"What is most important is making sure that our biosecurity system is absolutely intact. We fully endorse the actions being taken by MPI, the steps they have taken and the reviews they are conducting," David Vinsen, chief executive of the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association, told BusinessDesk.

The stink bug is considered a major biosecurity threat as it would attack grapes, kiwifruit, apples, citrus and stone fruit, corn and many other valuable crops. Stink bugs have always been on the MPI watch list but efforts have been stepped up recently due to the unprecedented spike in their numbers. Within the wine industry alone, research indicates the industry could lose around $600 million in export revenue over the next 20 years if the stink bug were to take up residence in New Zealand.

MPI has directed three bulk carriers carrying around 10,000 to 12,000 new and used vehicles and machinery to leave New Zealand this month due to excessive contamination and today said all used vehicles - cars and trucks - will now be required to undergo inspection and cleaning at an MPI-approved facility in Japan prior to export.

Vinsen said the immediate impact of the stinkbug threat is "severe" and businesses and jobs are already being affected. However, he downplayed any longer term cost, saying "whatever requirements MPI puts in place for the long term will affect all vehicle importers equally, and quickly become part of the process."

He underscored his association supports "whatever steps are necessary" to ensure biosecurity and said it has a preference that all biosecurity procedures, both treatment and inspections, are conducted overseas.

"We don't want to bring the biosecurity risks to New Zealand and then try and contain them. We don't want them coming here in the first place. So, we support this idea that everything will be inspected and cleared before it leaves its port of origin," he said.

MPI new measures mean any used machinery or other types of used vehicles from Japan will require certification proving it has undergone cleaning by an appropriate provider, said Paul Hallett, MPI Biosecurity and Environment Manager.

"Nearly 95 percent of used vehicles from Japan already go through approved facilities that are designed to eliminate the risk of biosecurity threats like seeds and hitchhiking organisms such as Asian gypsy moth. The requirement will now be compulsory for all imports," said Hallett.

An MPI spokesman confirmed the initial changes only affect used vehicles but "MPI is also working with the new vehicle industry and will look to implement changes across this pathway as well."

Vinsen confirmed the three bulk carriers that were turned away were also carrying new vehicles and said there is no reason a stink bug would differentiate between a new or used vehicle.

"Currently, we have stringent procedures in place for used vehicles anyway. And there is a concern that if there are vehicles which have been cleared and cleaned on a vessel with vehicles that have not been, there is a risk of cross-contamination," he said. Those issues are currently being addressed with MPI, Vinsen said.


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