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Biosecurity measures announced - PM and Sutton

Biosecurity measures announced

Cabinet has approved extra measures to tighten New Zealand's border control, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Acting Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

This means another 11 teams of detector dogs to cover New Zealand's nine international airports, and soft-tissue x-ray machines will be installed at secondary international airports.

Soft-tissue x-ray machines can identify fruit, meat, and other illegal imports in people's baggage.

Extra x-ray machines will be installed at Auckland, Hamilton, and Wellington airports. Machines will also be installed at Whenuapai, Ohakea, Dunedin, Queenstown, and Palmerston North, which have not had x-ray machines.

Six of the new dog teams will go to Auckland to enable 24-hour coverage there and some coverage at Hamilton. Another two teams will go to Wellington, and will also assist at Palmerston North and Ohakea. A further two teams will be based in Christchurch, also providing cover at Dunedin and Queenstown airports. The remaining new team has yet to be allocated.

Thirty-four additional quarantine officers and 43 full-time and eight part-time quarantine assistants will be required to operate the new x-ray machines.

Miss Clark said that the introduction of x-ray machines and detector dogs at Auckland International Airport in 1996 increased detection levels from approximately 55 percent to 85-95 percent depending on the product type. This detection level was achieved by x-raying the baggage of approximately 50 percent of arriving passengers.

"By x-raying and searching all baggage, the level of detection of risk goods will be increased from 85-95 percent to as close as possible to 100 percent."

The new measures will cost an extra $4.6 million per year.

Mr Sutton said that as well as the extra x-ray machines and sniffer dogs, the funding would also pay for a special foot-and-mouth public awareness campaign and for the provision of New Zealand veterinarians to assist with the United Kingdom FMD response.

As well, training and implementation of the instant fine system will be accelerated, so that passengers breaching our border controls could be fined from day one on July 1, he said.

Mr Sutton said MAF had implemented several steps to tighten border controls as soon as the foot and mouth disease outbreak was confirmed in Britain. These included: · Import health standards relating to the United Kingdom have been amended or revoked meaning that certain risk products can no longer be imported to New Zealand;

· More stringent cleaning requirements for agricultural machinery;

· Passengers from the United Kingdom are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny and questioning at the border; and

· Greater scrutiny of mail, cargo, vessels and aircraft coming from the United Kingdom.

Miss Clark and Mr Sutton said if the disease did get to New Zealand, our standard of living could drop by 25 per cent.

Agriculture was the backbone of the New Zealand economy, Miss Clark said.

"Any outbreak of foot and mouth disease here would be an unprecedented shock to the economy, far beyond the realms of any previous experience. We are determined to take every practicable step available to us to ensure it never happens."


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