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MFAT Needs Lesson On Biosecurity

Ministry Of Foreign Affairs And Trade Needs Lesson On Biosecurity

Trade agreements must take better account of environmental issues, particularly imports of unwanted pests, says Forest and Bird.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is claiming that a proposed trade agreement with Hong Kong will not pose any increased environmental risks to New Zealand despite conceding that it has not done an environmental risk assessment.

On the 31 July, MFAT wrote to Forest and Bird stating “MFAT does not hold any environmental risk assessment of the proposed [Hong Kong trade] agreement”.

“MFAT stretches its credibility by claiming that the proposed Hong Kong - New Zealand free trade agreement will pose no environmental risks when it has not done an assessment,” said Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society researcher Geoff Keey.

“Trade agreements mean more trade, which means greater risk of pests and weeds coming into New Zealand,” said Geoff Keey. “Funding for protecting our borders needs to be increased in parallel with the development of trade agreements”.

The government is currently spending large amounts of money eradicating pests like the painted apple moth and southern saltmarsh mosquito.

“By far the best option is to prevent these pests from arriving here in the first place . That is why it is essential that the government properly assesses the risks associated with trade with places like Hong Kong,” said Geoff Keey.

“Proposals for trade agreements must consider environmental risks. A whole of Government approach is needed,” Geoff Keey said.

“It is hard to take MFAT seriously when it claims to be putting biosecurity first. So far, MFAT seems to have done very little,” Geoff Keey said.

ENDS
Notes

Forest and Bird made a submission on the proposed Hong Kong – New Zealand free trade agreement, raising concerns that increased trade flows under the agreement could result in an increased risk of invasion by pests and weeds.

In recent years a number of unwanted species have entered New Zealand as a result of trade. Often they have arrived as unwanted hitch-hikers on goods and shipping containers. Recent examples include:

- More than 10 snakes in the last 2 years,
- The varroa bee mite,
- Disease carrying mosquitoes (such as the southern saltmarsh mosquito and yellow fever mosquito),
- Major forestry pests (such as the Asian gypsy moth, white spotted tussock moth and painted apple moth),
- Scorpions.

Introduced pests and weeds currently cost New Zealand around 1% of our GDP (New Zealand Conservation Authority June 1999.


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