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Public asked to comment on biosecurity risks

Public asked to comment on measures for reducing biosecurity risks associated with sea containers

Members of the public have six weeks to comment on a proposed set of measures for reducing biosecurity risks associated with importation and movement of sea containers.

The measures are contained in a discussion paper and a draft import health standard, both issued today by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) with a deadline for submissions of 28 April 2003.

The discussion paper looks at different pathway risks posed by the presence of unmanifested risk cargo, wood packaging, external contamination and live organisms. It recommends a series of measures with potential to reduce these risks.

“While the survey indicated a low to moderate incidence of risk material we are obviously concerned by the significant percentage of containers found with live organisms,” said Neil Hyde, Director of the Border Management group of MAF’s Biosecurity Authority.

“The fact that many of these live organisms can evade our current detection processes – regardless of their level of risk - adds more weight to the need to introduce measures to change and enhance those processes, so that we manage the biosecurity risk as closely as possible”.

“With around 425,000 containers entering New Zealand each year MAF Quarantine Service officers can’t inspect every single container. That’s why a key measure proposed by the sea container review and the draft import health standard is to train and accredit non-MAF employees to provide an extra protective layer of interception and defence,” said Mr Hyde.

“We will be working with industry to ensure the majority of biosecurity risks are, as far as practically possible, dealt with overseas before containers arrive here and we are hopeful there can be more harmonisation of international standards. The most essential step we have identified is to replace paper-based risk profiling with an intelligence-based electronic database system so that we can target our efforts. A variety of other cost-dependent measures, such as automated washing, fumigation and X-ray screening, have been publicly suggested, but none of them can be a substitute for 100% risk profiling and increased biosecurity awareness,” said Mr Hyde.

The estimated timeframe for implementing most of the proposed new measures is 6 to 18 months.

The consultation documents will be available at http:// http://www.maf.govt.nz/biosecurity/consultation.htm from 3pm today; see also the ‘SEE CONTAIN REPORT’ campaign at www.protectnz.org.nz A statement announcing the Sea Container Review process was made on February 26, and a copy is available at: http:// http://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/press/260203container.htm

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