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Greens Urge Immediate Ban On Californian Grapes

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street today said he was pleased the import of Californian tables grapes was being reviewed but said no time should be wasted and a ban should begin immediately.

Mr Ewen-Street has been calling for the imports to be banned for over a year on the grounds that Pierces Disease - a disease that has virtually wiped out parts of Southern California's wine industry - could end up in New Zealand through the import of grapes.

"I am shocked that two poisonous black widow spiders have been found in New Zealand in the last three weeks, following the 'beefing up' of biosecurity controls for these shipments," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"However, while the spiders are a danger to the health of New Zealanders, if Pierces Disease was ever established here our wine industry and the economic contribution it makes would be under serious threat."

Mr Ewen-Street said it was clear that the risks New Zealand was taking for the luxury of having grapes out of season were not worth the possible price and he urged MAF to announce a ban as soon as possible.

"We have seen in no uncertain terms that there can be no guarantees with these imports. The controls that are in place are not working, despite a recent upgrade, and if live spiders can make it in, then it is more than possible that the insect vector that spreads Pierces Disease can too.

"We have been playing Russian roulette with these imports for far too long. They must be stopped now if we wish to protect our flourishing wine industry," he said.

"I am pleased the Government is taking a second look at this issue. It is overdue. Recent events have shown the risks of importing these grapes is far too great and I am hoping for the ban to be announced immediately."

Ends




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