Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Auditor-General: Responding to biosecurity incursions

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

22 February 2013

Ministry for Primary Industries: Preparing for and responding to biosecurity incursions

Biosecurity helps prevent the establishment of pests or diseases that would damage our primary production industries, native flora and fauna, or our health. Our country is more dependent on biosecurity than any other developed country. Biosecurity is fundamental to New Zealand's economic health and natural heritage.

The system to ensure biosecurity is complex. Since 2004, a number of mergers and restructures have changed the responsibilities for managing biosecurity. The new Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has provided biosecurity leadership since 30 April 2012.

This year, the theme for my office's work programme is Our future needs – is the public sector ready? The focus is on how public entities prioritise work, develop necessary capabilities and skills, and use information to identify and address future needs.

In this context, we carried out a performance audit that looked at how effectively the biosecurity system works in preparing for and responding to the arrival in New Zealand of foreign pests and organisms – biosecurity incursions.

MPI and its predecessor organisations responsible for biosecurity have been, by and large, successful at responding to incursions, dealing with between 30 and 40 incursions a year. They have developed generally high-trust relationships with partners by working together on responses and have improved biosecurity by sharing knowledge and fostering innovative practice.

No border control is 100% effective, so it is important that New Zealand is prepared to deal with incursions effectively. However, it is my view that MPI is under-prepared for potential incursions from some high-risk organisms. Responding to incursions has taken precedence over preparing for the potential arrival of other pests and diseases. Not enough priority has been given to planning. Many response partners who have worked with MPI and its predecessors believe that stronger response capability is also needed.

Improvements are being made, including trying to detect threats earlier by better targeting of surveillance activities, updating existing plans for dealing with specific pests and diseases, and more regular testing to ensure that plans and preparations will work if needed. A new response system has brought more consistency and efficiency to how incursions are dealt with. Some improvements to information systems and how information is used have begun. There is more openness about acknowledging mistakes and treating these as learning opportunities.

However, there is still a lot to do and some serious weaknesses remain. Plans for responding to potential incursions from some high-risk organisms are not yet complete. For example, the plan for dealing with a foot and mouth disease outbreak is inadequate.

Workforce planning and capability development needs to be stronger, so that MPI has the appropriate people, with the right skills, in the right place. Staff are not using the new response system to its full potential, so a better approach is needed to managing staff experience, development, and training. Contracting with partners during responses needs to be more efficient and there is potential for better value for money. Some information systems do not yet link together and information is not used as effectively and efficiently as it could be.

Performance reporting also needs to improve. Stronger outcome-based measures and performance measurement tools are needed to identify how effectively and efficiently incursions are responded to and to ensure continuous improvement.

The recently merged and restructured MPI has an opportunity to achieve lasting improvements in biosecurity preparedness and response. However, the previous track record of delivering sustained improvements is not good. There are many instances where initiatives either have not been completed or have been delivered but not embedded.

There is a desire for improvement, but this requires continued strong leadership from the new management and commitment throughout MPI. I have made some recommendations for improvements to biosecurity preparedness and response that will need to be implemented if MPI is to bring about the changes required.

I thank the staff of MPI and its response partners for their assistance and co-operation in the course of our audit.


Scoop copy of report (PDF) - original at www.oag.govt.nz/2013/biosecurity

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines



Wellington.Scoop: Serco – First The Prisons, And Now It Wants To Run The Trains

As the government continues its inquiry into Serco’s discredited administration of Mt Eden prison in Auckland, here in Wellington there’s further scrutiny of the British outsourcing company – because it’s competing to take over the running of our commuter trains. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The TPP Countdown, And Mary Margaret O’Hara

To date, the Key government has been unwilling to share any information about this TPP deal until it is too late for outraged public opinion to affect the outcome... the disclosure process is likely to consist of a similarly skewed and careful exercise in spin. More>>


Australia Deportations: English Relaxed On Immigration Centre Conditions

Labour's Annette King: “There have been numerous reports from inside these detention centres on just how bad conditions are... If they were being held in any other foreign jail, I imagine Mr English would be somewhat concerned. More>>


Schools: Achievement-Based Funding Would Be A Disaster

The Education Minister’s speech to the PPTA Conference raising the spectre of achievement data driving a new funding system would be disastrous, says NZEI Te Riu Roa. More>>

  • Video Out-Link - PPTA Annual Conference 2015 on Livestream (Q+A dicussion suggests funding would be directed to less successful schools.)

  • ALSO:

    ECE Report:

    Key In NY: Prime Minister Addresses United Nations

    Prime Minister John Key has addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, focusing on a call for action in Syria and on other conflicts, reform of the veto process and on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. More>>.


    Gordon Campbell: On The Lack Of Accountability Over Philip Smith

    In New Zealand, accountability is an exotic creature rarely glimpsed at ministerial level, or among senior management. The flight to Rio by the paedophile /murderer Philip John Smith/Traynor is no exception. More>>


    More On Corrections

    Get More From Scoop



    Search Scoop  
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news