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Venomous snake shows high biosecurity risks

Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said New Zealand's supposed freedom from a range of venemous pests had everything to do with good luck and nothing to do with good management.

Ms Fitzsimons made the comment after a venomous Australian snake was discovered alive in Petone earlier this week. She will be asking a parliamentary question this afternoon on the failings of New Zealand's biosecurity and quarantine controls and asking the government what they plan to do about it.

The Eastern Brown snake is usually described as the most dangerous snake in Australia and it's venom is 12 times more toxic than that of the Indian Cobra. It lives in most environments, including urban and pasture areas.

"New Zealand imports around 350,000 containers of goods from a range of countries every year yet only 20 per cent of these containers are examined despite MAF finding that 39 per cent of these containers are externally contaminated with soil, plant and animal material," she said.

"Given the possibility that every container from Australia could possibly contain a snake, it is incredible that New Zealand is not populated by a range of undesirable pests right now."

Ms Fitzsimons said if border and quarantine control was not tightened considerably then it was only a matter of time before New Zealand was successfully nationalised by snakes, spiders and insects that could threaten people and the New Zealand environment.

"The Eastern brown snake is a killer. If it naturalised in New Zealand no child would be safe playing in bush down the back of the garden," she said.

"To have this snake in our forests and parks would revolutionise the way New Zealanders relate to and play in the outdoors," she said.

"The Greens are very concerned at the obvious failings of New Zealand's border protection," Ms Fitzsimons said. "We are concerned not just about this snake but about the high rate of introduction of new pests which threaten our primary and our biodiversity. We will be asking the government just what they plan to do about what appears to be an unacceptable level risk."

Ends Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: 04 470 6661, 025 586 068 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133

Jeanette Fitzsimons will ask a question on this issue during question time this afternoon.

The Green's have information sheets available on the Eastern Brown snake detailing its comparable toxicity and range of habitat.

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