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Snake Find Highlights Bigger Problem

The Forest and Bird Protection Society is calling for a major upgrade in the quarantine requirements for containers following the finding of a live poisonous snake in Petone. The snake is thought to have come into the country in a shipping container.

Forest and Bird's conservation director, Kevin Smith, said today that too many containers were contaminated with biological materials.

"The voracious painted apple moth which MAF is desperately trying to eradicate in Auckland almost certainly came into New Zealand by container."

"Like the Petone snake, it was found near a yard of shipping containers."

"Last year the dengue-fever spreading tiger mosquito was found in a tyre used as packing in a shipping container at Mt Maunganui."

Mr Smith said that despite the heightened awareness about the crucial importance of keeping alien pest species out of New Zealand, the quarantine conditions for some containers seemed to differ little from the quarantine conditions on the sailing ships of 150 years ago.

"The sailing ships delivered us rats and mice, today's containers bring insect pests, weeds and now snakes."

"This is a world-wide problem and New Zealand could take the lead by introducing tougher quarantine standards. Containers readily lend themselves to quarantine measures."

"The container exteriors can be easily water-blasted or steam-cleaned to get rid of external contaminants. The interior can be fumigated."

Mr Smith said New Zealand received over 350,000 sea containers a year.

"A MAF study showed that an estimated 39% of these containers were contaminated on the exterior with soil, plant and animal material."

"Despite this high rate of contamination MAF only have the resources to inspect about one in five containers."

"The Petone snake and the painted apple moth in Auckland reveal significant holes exist in New Zealand's border quarantine despite the best efforts of MAF Quarantine officers."

Mr Smith said the Petone snake find was the second time a live snake had been found in New Zealand in the last two years.

"Quarantine officers previously found a live snake in an imported used vehicle on the Wellington waterfront."

"Biosecurity Minister Marian Hobbs must send a strong message to overseas exporters that New Zealand will no longer tolerate having pest-contaminated containers, used vehicles and other goods sent to this country."

....... ends

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