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Guy: Speech to the B3 Better Border Biosecurity Conference

Nathan Guy

28 MAY, 2014

Speech to the B3 Better Border Biosecurity Conference

Thank you to Better Border Biosecurity (B3) for hosting this important conference. The theme is “10 years on – Adding Value to New Zealand’s Plant Biosecurity System through Research”.

Today I want to talk to you about the importance of biosecurity to New Zealand, and the importance of scientific research to back it up.

I want to start by acknowledging the B3 partnership as a great model for working together on research.

The signed up partners include four Crown Research Institutes (CRI), a university based research entity, three government agencies, and an industry group. It’s important that it involves end-users from both government and industry.

The importance of biosecurity

Everyone here has probably heard me say many times that “biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister.” Today I want to say a few words to remind why that is, and why this agreement today is so important.

The primary sector is the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy, accounting for over 70 percent of our export earnings.

It helps pay the bills for our schools, hospitals and social services, and supports many jobs in our regions and cities.

As you know we have the ambitious goal of doubling primary sector exports by 2025. Clearly, we’re not going to achieve that if we don’t protect our producers, our resources and our international reputation for food safety, animal welfare, and sustainability.

A serious biosecurity incursion can do crippling damage, and undo years of hard work. I acknowledge the challenges the kiwifruit industry has faced with Psa and the effect it had on grower returns. Fortunately the industry is bouncing back and returns are looking more positive.

Biosecurity affects all New Zealanders, and we have a shared responsibility to manage risks that could damage our nation. We all have skin in the game.

MPI is beefing up border protection with 125 new quarantine inspectors trained over the last 18 months, and 12 new x-ray machines at our international airports. We also have five new dog detector teams.

This year the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Budget has increased by over $17 million with a focus on strengthening biosecurity and food safety systems.
A total of $26.5 million will be invested by MPI and DOC over four years to tackle kauri dieback disease.

Minister Steven Joyce also announced some important initiatives in the Budget. From 2016 the Government will fund three additional Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs)

CoREs are cross-institutional research networks that support production of the absolute best research and researchers in tertiary education institutions across New Zealand. Budget 2014 boosts CoREs operating funding by $53 million over four years.

I also want to acknowledge the members of the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee – BMAC – who provide me with great advice. We have several new members recently onboard.

Keeping pests and diseases out is a priority. Prevention makes good economic sense when compared to the cost of responses.

We need to acknowledge the biosecurity risks we face. Changing global demands, growing passenger and trade volumes, increasing imports from new countries, population expansion and climate change are contributing to this.

Damage caused by pests and diseases can impact production, product quality and our ability to access overseas markets. Over the last twenty years we’ve had experience with this through the varroa mite, painted apple moth and Psa.

This is why we can never afford to rest on our laurels, and need to be constantly looking for improvements.

Managing risk

At the same time, we need to acknowledge New Zealand will always face threats from unwanted pests and diseases.

It is simply impossible to eliminate all risk. Even if we completely stopped all trade to and from New Zealand, even if we halted all movement of people in and out of New Zealand - we still wouldn’t eliminate all risk.

To illustrate our challenge let me provide some context - around 175,000 items come across our border each day, and we receive around 10 million travellers a year.

So the question is how we best manage this risk.

We need to manage risks practically, and this requires new scientific knowledge to drive innovation and improvement.

The importance of science

New Zealand is a global leader in biosecurity and scientific knowledge is the basis of our biosecurity system.

New technology has greatly improved our border security. Some examples include:

• X-ray scanners

• Molecular technology to provide rapid and accurate diagnostics

• New methods for detecting fruit flies

• The use of modelling and statistical methods to improve our risk management and risk profiling.

This is why MPI develops and maintains strong connections to science networks. For the last 10 years B3 has been an important part of the science network that supports continuous improvement in the biosecurity system.

The B3 Research Programme

The B3 research programme is concerned with long term improvement in our ability to prevent new plant-related pests and diseases from establishing in New Zealand.

B3 is helping develop a generation of scientists who are thinking beyond the management of current pest problems.

It links scientists with MPI’s policy and operational thinkers to ensure cross-pollination of knowledge and understanding which will improve New Zealand’s biosecurity system.

These links have already demonstrated their worth.

For example, B3 has supported MPI's post-border fruit fly programme with advice on seasonality and the timing of surveillance, development of fruit fly risk maps, and providing scientific input during responses.

Another achievement of B3’s research programme has been developing DNA barcoding technology for diagnostics. This has allowed a radical step change in the identifing insects, pathogens and other organisms where previously this was very difficult or impossible.

MPI is now implementing this technology in its investigation and diagnostic centres.

B3 input has been crucial in furnishing background to support discussion with industry, particularly under the Government Industry Agreement process.

The B3 aerial applications programme has directly contributed to a number of successful pest eradication campaigns such as painted apple moth, Asian gypsy moth, and most recently the eucalyptus leaf beetle in the early 2000s.

We are very dependent on science to help develop enhanced tools which can protect New Zealand without generating concern in the community.

B3 has also helped MPI to explore and apply computer modelling for risk analysis, which has been very valuable.

National Science Challenges

At a wider level, the Government is providing $133.5 million in new funding over the next 4 years for the 10 National Science Challenges.

In recognition of the crucial role of biosecurity, Challenge 5: New Zealand’s Biological Heritage is being established and includes biosecurity outcomes which focus on preserving our unique biological resources.

B3 provides an excellent building block from which the challenge can develop, as National Science Challenges are required to be co-operative ventures between research institutions.

Another important investment the government is looking at is building a new replacement laboratory for MPI’s Wallaceville site in Upper Hutt.

This laboratory carries out important work on diagnosing and researching exotic diseases. It has served us well, but we need to future-proof New Zealand’s ability to respond to exotic species diagnostic and research needs while keeping pace with changing international regulations.

I will have more details to announce on this in the next couple of months.

Government Industry Agreements

Last week saw another important step for biosecurity with the first Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA) Deed signed with Kiwifruit Vine Health.

The GIA Deed was approved by Cabinet last year and outlines the commitments government and industry will make in developing Operational Agreements, which will contain the detail of how they will work together in specific areas and the contributions each will make.

We know from experience that managing our strong biosecurity system requires the collective efforts of both government and our industry partners.

The partnership approach is setting the scene for better overall biosecurity outcomes. It shares the costs and decision making of biosecurity issues amongst those most affected. By working together, we can share our expertise, identify challenges and develop strategies to improve our preparedness.

As you know, earlier this year two Queensland fruit flies were detected in Whangarei. The fact they were found, and were isolated cases, shows our biosecurity system working as it should.

However, it also highlighted the importance of having government and industry working together to prepare for, and respond to incursions. A representative from each of KVH and Horticulture New Zealand took part as observers during this response.

In future, the GIA partnership approach means we can work together on joint decisions and to determine the right level of biosecurity investment. It will mean faster and more effective responses.

It provides a platform for the Crown and primary industries to identify challenges and develop strategies to better prevent unwanted pest and disease incursions.

Scientific advice and research from groups like B3 will help shape the investments made in biosecurity activities under GIA.

B3 should keep an open mind and continue to engage in GIA. It presents a major opportunity to combine the strengths of government, industry and stakeholders so that we can tap into new and emerging ideas.


I want to finish by thanking you again for your hard work and interest in what is a hugely important area for New Zealand.

It’s clear that biosecurity doesn’t stand still, and we need to keep ahead of the game.

As a government we are committed to working with you to protect our borders.

Thank you.

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