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Border Restructuring Threat to Biosecurity

Conservationists have strongly criticised the direction of the Government's current review of border control services.

Forest and Bird's Conservation Director, Kevin Smith, said the review outcome seemed pre-determined, with the Ministerially-appointed review panel almost certain to recommend a single border agency comprising MAF Quarantine and the Customs Service.

Mr Smith said the motivation for the changes was not to improve biosecurity effectiveness but to reduce costs and to speed up the passage of goods and people across the border by cutting back on biosecurity inspection regimes.

"The changes, which are mainly being promoted by the airline and tourism industry, will accelerate the introduction of new weeds, pests and diseases into the country."

Mr Smith said the airline and tourism industries had an undue influence on the review outcome because of the composition of the three person review panel. The panel is headed by Sir Ron Carter, a director of Air New Zealand, with Rick Christie of the Tourism Industry Association being one of the other members. The third member of the panel is former MAF war-horse Peter O'Hara.

"Air New Zealand refuses to show the MAF Quarantine video on incoming international flights, so it comes as no surprise that Sir Ron Carter's review is focussed on increasing the rapidity at which goods and people cross the border rather than strengthening biosecurity and improving the thoroughness of inspection regimes."

Mr Smith said Forest and Bird feared that a border agency combining MAF Quarantine and the Customs Service would diminish the quality of MAF's biosecurity work.

"There is a world of difference between the skills and procedures needed to find the smugglers of pornography or illegal drugs compared to those needed to intercept biological materials which are usually accidentally or unintentionally brought into the country."

"The consequences of a breach of the border are also hugely different between Customs and MAF. Just one gypsy moth egg case slipping through unnoticed could result in the devastation of native forests and huge costs for the plantation forest industry."

Mr Smith said the forest industry also opposed the establishment of a single border agency for similar reasons.

Forest and Bird believes border biosecurity needs to be strengthened through the establishment of a Ministry of Biosecurity combining MAF Quarantine and MAF's Biosecurity Authority.

ENDS

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