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New plant access to NZ to be improved

New plant access to NZ to be improved

Bringing new plant varieties into New Zealand should become easier under measures proposed in next week's Budget, Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton told the International Society of Plant Propagators meeting in Tauranga that the ability to bring new genetic material into New Zealand was crucial to the development and marketing of improved varieties and breeds of plants and animals.

"Such new material also provides a basis for research, development and innovation in the biotechnology sector.

"It is equally important to ensure that biosecurity is maintained when bringing in new material, to protect what is already here: native, introduced and economically important flora and fauna."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand used post-entry quarantine to ensure new genetic material is imported in a way that protects agriculture and horticulture industries and the environment from any pests and diseases that may be inadvertently imported at the same time.

"Currently, however, gaps in level 3 (that is, the high-security) plant PEQ services mean that New Zealanders cannot bring in a wide range of high-value plant genetic material. The main problem is that nobody in New Zealand currently has the resource to provide the full range of highly specialist diagnostic services required for plant PEQ.

"I am delighted to announced that next week's Budget will include measures to address it."

Mr Sutton said the Budget would fund MAF's National Plant Pest Reference Laboratory in Auckland to offer the critical PEQ diagnostic services for levels 1, 2, and 3 plant post-entry quarantine that private businesses have been unable to provide.

The allocation is for $356,000 (excluding gst) in the 2005-06 financial year, and $889,000 (excluding gst) in subsequent financial years.

"This will free private operators from having to provide for their own level 3 PEQ diagnostic services."

He said that, in the short term, the Government would make a limited amount of level 3 glasshouse space available for importers to rent for post-quarantine transitional facilities while private level 3 glasshouses are being constructed.

"New Zealand currently has very little glasshouse space approved to level 3 standards, and we know that it will take some time for businesses to construct more level 3 glasshouse facilities.

"Private enterprise has proven well capable of providing transitional facilities for PEQ, and we expect private businesses to be responsible for providing and maintaining level 3 transitional facilities in the long term."

Mr Sutton said the Government was also continuing to work on the review of the Plant Variety Rights Act which is being done in tandem with the Patents Act.

"My colleague, Associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard, tells me that a draft of the proposed Plant Variety Rights Amendment Bill is expected to be released for public comment shortly."

Mr Sutton said horticulture was an industry that was an example of creativity and innovation.

"To quote the Orchardist magazine, New Zealand horticulture prides itself on being a global leader, a major contributor to our country's economy, and a major part of New Zealand life. It is an industry that provides significant employment from Northland to Southland, and builds New Zealand's profile in over 105 countries. It exports $2.2 billion a year, and supplies most of the requirements of the New Zealand market ? a total export and domestic value for fruit and vegetables of $3.3 billion.

"And the sector continues to grow strongly. The Orchardist cite statistics showing the horticulture industry has doubled in size in the past 12 years with further growth projected."

ENDS

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