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Bill vital for New Zealand interests

20 March 2008 Media Statement

Bill vital for New Zealand interests

Possibilities for new trade and access to new imported products for further manufacture and sale here will be blocked till a new law resolving biosecurity issues is passed, Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton said today.

Jim Anderton told Parliament during the second reading of the Biosecurity and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation Amendment Bill that the urgency surrounding the new Bill was justified.

He said the implications of last year's Court of Appeal decision were serious and it lead to the freeze on issuing any new import health standards under the Biosecurity Act and also on amending any existing standards.

"In considering the implications of the Court's interpretation, it is important to bear in mind that, for many different kinds of imported goods, there are a large number of known new organisms that might be incidentally imported.

"To give but one example, there could be hundreds of known new micro-organisms imported in or on horses, in their intestines, on their coat, or in their noses. If the law as stated by the Court of Appeal is left unchanged, then all of those organisms would require an approval under the HSNO Act before horses could be imported into New Zealand. This is clearly unworkable and impractical, because the approval processes in the HSNO Act were not designed for assessing the risks posed by passenger new organisms, and as a result are not suitable for that task."

Jim Anderton said the HSNO Act has a decision-making process based on the particular new organism that is applied for.

However, the Biosecurity Act has a decision-making process based on the kind of goods that are proposed for importation. The latter has therefore clearly been designed to consider the unwanted pests and diseases that might come in with imported goods, and the measures that should be applied to mitigate those risks.

"The sheer number of new organisms that are known to be associated with imported goods of various kinds would make it impractical to carry out a HSNO Act assessment for each of them. The biological reality is that many new organisms cross our border as incidental importations on a regular basis, without posing any significant risk to New Zealand. There are various reasons why the incidental importation of a new organism might present very low risks to New Zealand. Some examples are:
where the organism may enter New Zealand in low quantities in imported goods, and as a result there is a very low likelihood of it becoming established here
where the organism would not survive or reproduce in New Zealand, for example because the climate is unsuitable
where the organism is inconsequential, and would have negligible adverse effects if it did become established in New Zealand
where the organism requires a particular insect in order to spread, and the insect is not present in New Zealand.

"It is much more sensible for these kinds of organisms to be assessed by MAF in an analysis of the risks posed by a particular kind of imported good, rather than to have each and every one of them assessed using the criteria and processes in the HSNO Act."

Jim Anderton said these were difficult issues to contend with.

"Biosecurity management at the border is a difficult balancing act with a range of competing interests, and it is essential that we do it well.

"But the current situation, with an unworkable statutory regime for assessing passenger new organisms, and a freeze on issuing or amending import health standards, is unsustainable."


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