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Sutton needs to toughen stance on sea containers

Sutton needs to toughen stance on sea containers.

Forest and Bird is calling on Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton to toughen his stance on sea container inspections. Mr. Sutton rejected 100% inspection of sea containers at a meeting of Federated Farmers today. Forest and Bird warned that the government's approach could commit New Zealand to ongoing spray programmes.

Mr. Sutton today told the Federated Farmers meat and fibre annual meeting that inspecting every container was not logistically possible.

"Every sea container has to be emptied at a registered site. So there's no practical reason why MAF inspectors cannot check containers as they are being emptied. The only reason for rejecting a proper inspection regime appears to be stinginess," said Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer Geoff Keey.

"The Auditor General's Office and MAF's own research shows that the current sea container inspection regime is failing. That's not surprising given that standard 'open door' inspections of sea containers miss 95% of the spiders and insects that are inside. Worse still, less than a quarter of sea containers are actually inspected. It's no wonder that the country is having frequent panics about the latest pest to arrive in New Zealand," he said.

"Getting rid of pests once they have escaped from shipping containers is far more difficult than dealing with them before they disperse. By rejecting 100% inspections, the Minister is, in effect, committing New Zealand to ongoing spray progammes like the one in West Auckland," he said.

"The government will lose credibility if it fails to develop a proper inspection regime for sea containers," he said.

"The wharfies are showing commitment to biosecurity by refusing to handle risky goods. The government needs to show it is just as committed as the wharfies," he said.

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