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Spiders, mosquitoes - what next?

October 17, 2001 - Wellington MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Spiders, mosquitoes - what next?

Forest and Bird is calling on the government to take immediate action following the latest in a series of biosecurity failures.

Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer, Karli Thomas, said "the latest discoveries of a black widow spider in grapes from California and Asian tiger mosquitoes in a used vehicle are completely unacceptable, and a risk to the environment and human health."

Both these finds are an exact repeat of previous incidents. "MAF is failing to learn from mistakes and is allowing the same pests to arrive in the same goods again and again. Biosecurity should be a system of continual review and improvement, but MAF is not taking that approach," Ms Thomas said.

Ms Thomas said Forest and Bird supports the Green Party's call for an immediate ban on the importation of grapes from California. "Californian grape imports clearly represent a risk for the introduction of pests including black widow spiders and red back jumping spiders."

Forest and Bird is also calling for an immediate review of the Used Vehicle Import Health Standard, which currently allows used vehicles to be imported to New Zealand without being decontaminated prior to shipment.

Ms Thomas said that Forest and Bird has been campaigning for several years to have used vehicles cleaned before they arrive in New Zealand. "Last year MAF released a draft Import Health Standard which required offshore cleaning of vehicles, but after several months MAF reneged on that and issued an Standard that was virtually unchanged from the previous weak approach."

The government is currently developing a biosecurity strategy for New Zealand, which the public has the opportunity to comment on. "The message we need to send the government is that they have to start getting the basics right - if something goes wrong, acknowledge the mistake and prevent it from happening again".

Forest and Bird awaits the government's action to ensure that these particular biosecurity mistakes are not repeated again.

Ends email: k.thomas@wn.forest-bird.org.nz b.weeber@wn.forest-bird.org.nz
Contact: Karli Thomas, Biosecurity Awareness Officer, Tel: 04 385
7374
Barry Weeber, Senior Conservation Officer
Tel: 04 385 7374, 025 622 7369

For further information:

Used vehicle imports:

The Labour Party Policy on Biosecurity, October 1999, is to "stop used vehicle and machinery imports from bringing pests into New Zealand by requiring mandatory, and audited, decontamination and inspection of such high-risk imports before they leave for New Zealand."

There have been numerous breaches of biosecurity defences involving used vehicles and machinery, including disease-spreading mosquitoes, forest destroying pests and ant nests. Other risks have included the interception of grossly contaminated machinery - including a full garbage truck, a silage cutter with 150kg of organic material and a dirty bus. The bus got through border checks completely and was not found until it broke down in the Lyttleton tunnel

Biosecurity Strategy:

The biosecurity issues paper was released earlier this month, and is available from the Biosecurity Strategy website www.biostrategy.govt.nz . The website also includes a calendar of dates and venues of public meetings to be held around the country. People are invited to attend public meetings and make submission on the issues paper, by December 31st 2001.


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