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Response to NZ Herald

15 July 2005

Response to NZ Herald

Local authorities have been asked to step up their contribution to eradicate Dutch Elm Disease, but few have responded, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said it was unfair to say the Government had "given up" on eradicating Dutch Elm Disease from Auckland.

"Eradication will need more funding than is currently available. The Councils in Auckland have been aware for some time that the level of funding for the programme is not sufficient to result in the eradication, and they have been invited to increase funding.

"Some have made modest increases, but not to the level required for eradication.

"In the past 15 years of the programme, more than two-thirds of the funding has come from the crown, and the remainder from councils. We are currently spending just over $300,000. To achieve eradication we would need to spend $3 million in year one only and additional $10 million from year two for another eight years.

" "We are still in dialogue with the councils to see what we can do to move this forward from here, and are hoping to work with them - within the confines of the current situation - to achieve this."

Mr Sutton said biosecurity was the responsibility of local government as well as central government, and it was appropriate for councils to contribute to tackling incursions affecting amenity species that occurred mainly in local council plantings.

Elm is not a significant commercial forestry species and it is not indigenous to New Zealand, so the justification for taxpayer funding is not particularly strong.

"More importantly, the DED feasibility study concluded that the likelihood of success with eradication scenario is medium-high to high. Due to the nature of the disease no one can really say that the eradication could be 100% guaranteed, no matter how much money is spent.

Mr Sutton said the Government's funding was not unlimited and priorities had to be determined.

ENDS

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