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Sutton Speech: Marine Bioinvasions conference

Jim Sutton Speech: International Marine Bioinvasions conference, Wellington

Ladies and Gentlemen: It is my pleasure to open the Fourth International Marine Bioinvasions Conference here in Wellington, New Zealand.

These conferences are held every two years, starting in 1999 in Boston. I note that this is the first time this meeting has been held outside of the United States.

I'm pleased that we were able to host the conference in the Southern Hemisphere, with our significant concern for biosecurity and reliance on ship-borne trade.

New Zealand is a young country ? we're still thirty-five years away from celebrating our bicentenary. We are an isolated island nation, and have managed to stay free of many of the significant pests and diseases that countries on continental landmasses have to deal with.

Our native animal, bird, and plant species, having evolved in a land without snakes or land-based mammals ? apart from bats - are vulnerable. That's given us a heightened awareness of biosecurity.

New Zealand has a long history of experience with biological invasions ? over time, rats, mice, and numerous other pests and diseases have made it here. We've had to develop strong systems for terrestrial biosecurity to maintain our environment and way of life, systems recognized as world class by the rest of the world.

The New Zealand Government, of which I am proud to be a part, has a demonstrable commitment to biosecurity.

We have increased baseline biosecurity funding over 50% since becoming government in December 1999. Baseline funding is the funding given year after year ? it does not include funding for one-off incursions. The baseline budget is now $165 million New Zealand dollars (that's about $116 million US) with an increase in last year's budget of $46.5 million over 4 years. This included $20 million specifically for marine capability enhancement.

The Government completed a massive exercise in publishing the Biosecurity Strategy two years ago, a strategy compiled after three years of consultation with the public and key stakeholder groups. That strategy identified more than 50 expectations of our biosecurity system and has resulted in a realignment of how we deliver biosecurity protection for the whole of New Zealand.

We established Biosecurity New Zealand within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, bringing together Agriculture, Forestry, Marine, Health and Conservation into a single group.

The focus has shifted from sector-based systems (animals, plants, marine etc) to functional groupings of pre- and post-clearance, which consider risks across all sectors.

In part, this was to reconcile the issue of prioritization.

Biosecurity involves making difficult decisions ? Government cannot fund everything and balance must be sought, such as the balance between the economy and environment, between terrestrial and marine.

At times these appear to be in conflict, yet New Zealand significantly relies on its "clean, green" image. We rely on Healthy Environments, Healthy Oceans, and Sustainable production systems to maintain our quality of life as New Zealanders.

We are just beginning to learn about the marine environment.

In New Zealand that represents more than 20 times the land mass, with untold opportunities. A significant proportion of our productive sector is based in marine systems. Fishing, the large and growing aquaculture sector, and tourism contribute to the vibrant economy of New Zealand.

We are also just beginning to learn about how to deliver marine biosecurity.

We are developing a comprehensive risk identification and assessment capability to help identify and manage new threats as they arise overseas.

We have undertaken baseline surveys to learn what lives in our ports, both native and introduced. These surveys have occurred in thirteen of our ports and 3 marinas at a cost of several million dollars, using internationally recognized procedures to guarantee congruence with our trading partners. We are currently expanding the surveys to all of our primary ports and will include some pristine areas.

We have established a comprehensive programme of action in Fiordland that addresses the multiple uses of the marine environment, including the biosecurity protection of one of our finest areas with strong fishing, tourism, and conservation interests.

We have established monitoring programmes to help identify species soon after they arrive.

These programmes are being implemented in association with Australia in an effort to increase the compatability of our systems and guarantee that the lessons learned in one location are applicable in another. Our intent is to make monitoring a way of doing business in the marine environment, by providing simple methods in a fashion that can be applied by industry, school groups, iwi, and regional councils.

We have implemented management and control of species in the marine environment, and have successfully eradicated Undaria from the Chatham Islands. This is one of the few successful treatments of marine species in the world, though we are pleased to see additional efforts and successes being discussed at this conference.

And, we are working towards implementation of the new International Convention on the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments. As with other nations, we have supported and worked hard to develop and adopt a Convention.

Now the hard work begins ? we need to identify ways to implement the Convention in a fashion that meets the needs of New Zealand and the international community.

Our marine biosecurity system is founded on a strong scientific base, with significant funding for basic and applied research into learning what threats exist to New Zealand and how to manage them, but also to understanding the values we have in the marine and coastal environment ? economic, environmental, social and cultural values.

We have learned that biosecurity is everyone's business ? from prevention, to detection, and, at times, to helping with a cure.

In closing, I welcome you to New Zealand to discuss such an important topic and note that we have delegates from all around the world, from a wide array of disciplines.

The knowledge that you bring and share will help us increase our ability to make the system work.

I hope you enjoy New Zealand, take time to see some of the pristine beauty and values we are protecting.

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