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Family cat gains MAF biosecurity accreditation

Family cat gains statutory MAF biosecurity accreditation

Forest and Bird Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell's family cat, Bolletje, has successfully gained accreditation to carry out statutory biosecurity checks of sea containers.

On Friday, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry accredited the Hackwell family cat after Mr. Hackwell filled out an on-line MAF questionnaire.

"I didn't bother reading the modules properly and instead just completed the questionnaire - which took just 8 minutes to complete," Mr Hackwell said.

"My cat's pretty smart and I'm sure it could make a more reliable inspector of sea containers than some of the people that will become accredited on-line. At least it will go for the chase if it smells a rat," he said.

"But seriously, what kind of border protection do we have when someone can go on-line and gain biosecurity accreditation for their pets? Forest and Bird opposed the plan to allow importers to carry out inspections, but we never thought the inspection regime could be as farcical as this," Mr. Hackwell said.

"The thought that a Claytons accreditation process stands between New Zealand and a new painted apple moth outbreak is a significant worry. If I can register my cat, this on-line accreditation process is clearly open to abuse by importers who will not want their facilities closed if an alien species is spotted sneaking into the country," he said.

"When the Government said no to independent inspection and decided to allow importers to carry out their own inspections, Forest and Bird thought that at least there would be a proper training regime."

"There is no real training. The accreditation process to become a registered sea container inspector is merely an awareness raising exercise. Accredited staff do not gain skills from on-line training - they merely answer a few simple multi choice questions about the information they have just read".

"The law requires that sea containers must be inspected by accredited people. Mistakes by people 'accredited" through this sort of process could cause millions of dollars of damage, place the lives and health of many people at risk and help drive native plants and animals to extinction," he said.

Forest and Bird's Biosecurity Awareness Officer Geoff Keey became accredited on line and was astonished to discover that accreditation required no confirmation of identity and no confirmation that the person registering for the accreditation training was the same person completing it. Character references, police checks, or practical inspection training were also absent from the accreditation process.

"Our environment, economy and public health is completely dependent on 'accredited persons' stopping painted apple moths, gypsy moths and other nasties from becoming established. Yet I was able to become accredited without consenting to any background checks - I could be a smuggler for all MAF seems to care," Mr Keey said.


To become accredited: go to http://www.maf.govt.nz/biosecurity/border/transitional-facilities/training

"Bolletje" is dutch for "little ball" and is pronounced bowl ee cha

Bolletje's online accreditation form states:

Congratulations My Cat Bolletje

Fri Feb 13 12:30:56 2004

You have completed and passed the Biosecurity Awareness Training for Accredited Persons.

MAF will send to the address you gave at the commencement of the course, a certificate as formal evidence that you are an accredited person. This may take up to 14 working days. In the interim MAF suggests that you print out this page and retain it as evidence of successfully completing the sea container course. Your status as an accredited person lasts for three years after which it expires.

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