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Mismatch cannot go on any longer

19 February 2008

Mismatch cannot go on any longer

In the House today Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton introduced an amendment to biosecurity legislation that will resolve issues arising from a Court of Appeal judgment.

Introducing the first reading of the Biosecurity and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation Amendment Bill, he said the judgment had created an unworkable legal framework for the management of biosecurity risks at the border.

“If the law is not amended, we will have an unworkable situation at New Zealand’s border. We will impede imports and we will be potentially at risk of inconsistency with our World Trade Organisation obligations,” Jim Anderton said.

There are two main ways an organism can arrive in New Zealand − it can be deliberately imported, usually with the intention of putting it to some specific beneficial use. Alternatively, it can arrive incidentally, coming in with a legitimate import

Under the 1993 Biosecurity Act, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry manages the risks from organisms coming in incidentally, with traded goods. The conditions under which goods can safely be brought into the country are set out in an import health standard.

In order to make decisions about deliberate imports of new organisms, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HaSNO) Act was passed in 1996, setting up the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA)

“The intention when HaSNO was going through the House was that MAF would continue to be responsible for managing risks from incidentally imported organisms,” Jim Anderton said.

“Unfortunately, the drafting of the HaSNO Act did not adequately reflect this intention. The HaSNO Act does not make any distinction between deliberate importation and incidental importation. Instead, the Act simply says that no new organism shall be imported without an approval from ERMA.

“The Appeal Court judgment was issued in a case brought by the National Beekeepers’ Association. It challenged a MAF import health standard for the importation of honey from Australia.

“The conclusion of the Court of Appeal judgment was that all new organisms imported into New Zealand must have prior approval under the HaSNO Act. This will occur regardless of whether they are being imported deliberately or incidentally. The result creates an unworkable legal framework for the management of biosecurity risks at the border.

“The risks posed by an organism being imported incidentally are very different from the risks posed by that same organism if it is imported deliberately, in large quantities, to establish it in our environment,” Jim Anderton said.

MAF has suspended issuing new import health standards or amending existing ones until the law can be changed.

“This suspension is preventing new lines of trade. It is causing frustration for trading partners and importers who were expecting approval to commence imports. Countries affected include the EU, the US, Australia and Japan,” Jim Anderton said. “This can’t go on − Parliament needs to respond.”

The key change made by the Bill is to confirm that the Biosecurity Act, rather than the HaSNO Act, is the correct statute for making decisions on incidentally imported new organisms.

“The Bill will ensure that existing import health standards and past decisions made by MAF based on those standards cannot be challenged on the same grounds that the Court accepted in the Beekeepers’ Association case,” Jim Anderton said.

“Although we should proceed with haste, it is also important that organisations with an interest have an opportunity to have their say.”

Jim Anderton concluded by moving that the Primary Production Committee consider the Bill for a short period and report back the House on or before 17 March.


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