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Govt Must Secure Borders Against Foot And Mouth

Govt Needs To Secure Borders Against Foot And Mouth

ACT Agriculture Spokesman Gerry Eckhoff is urging the Government to order an immediate boost to New Zealand’s border security to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease into this country.

“The foot and mouth outbreak in the UK and possibly continental Europe is the greatest biosecurity threat of recent years. Outbreaks of the disease have already previously occurred this year in Mongolia, South Africa and Brazil.

“I am greatly alarmed to read reports that MAF believes no special procedures are needed and that New Zealand’s biosecurity borders are safe. How can they say this? I believe such comments demonstrate very dangerous and unwarranted complacency.

“With record numbers of tourists coming to New Zealand the risk of the disease being transported here – and the ensuing massive threat to the $7.5 billion of meat and dairy exports -has never been greater.

“Large numbers of the visitors to New Zealanders are backpackers who have been wondering overseas countryside freely – increasing the possibility that they could carry the disease in on their footwear. Customs and MAF border patrol staff must have already been under great pressure even before this outbreak to try to prevent – not always successfully – other diseases and pests getting here.

“The Government needs to immediately provide extra funding, additional staffing and extra training, so that MAF staff can prevent this disease reaching our shores. I would also urge the Government to order an immediate start to the instant fines for breaches of the biosecurity regulations, currently due for introduction on July 1. Further there needs to be an extensive education programme. Our people are very mobile. Those regularly travelling overseas need to be informed of the risks. We need to act now.

“There is no room for complacency. Varroa bee mites came into the country despite MAF’s assertion they had world-best systems. The virulent nature of this current outbreak of foot and mouth appears to transcend previous outbreaks and therefore the usual precautions will not be sufficient.

“As well as taking steps to deal with the current situation, the Government needs to say what future plans it has to ensure the agriculture industry’s ongoing protection from pests and diseases brought into the country,” Mr Eckhoff said.

ENDS


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