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Boost To Biosecurity Awareness

12 July 2002

Boost To Biosecurity Awareness Gives Birth To New Journalism Award

New Zealand's first-ever national biosecurity awareness event, Protect New Zealand Week, has been rounded out with the announcement of a new journalism award for "best biosecurity feature".

"We recognise that biosecurity issues related to exotic pests and diseases have now reached a point where they have a consistently high profile in the media and where there is a lot of commendable coverage," said MAF Biosecurity director Barry O'Neil.

"MAF Biosecurity are pleased to be sponsoring the award, provisionally called the Protect New Zealand Feature Award, which will be presented through the Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators in October," he said. Entries will be called for from mid-August and all features from the previous 12 months - print or broadcast - will be eligible.

"This week we have presented a mix of common sense reminders about how to keep pests and diseases out of New Zealand, as well as information on new initiatives such as our campaign to target people who work in the cargo and container industry." Said Mr O'Neil.

"As noted during the week, the level of public interest in border issues has been heightened by the success of the Border Patrol series which was New Zealand's most watched television programme for five weeks of its 10 week run. We recognise the Protect New Zealand programme has a long way to go, however this week's series of awareness events have been a major step towards building on the public's 'need to know'.

Biosecurity Council chair John Hellstrom said the branding achieved by Protect New Zealand Week reflected the sort of campaign which "probably wouldn¡¦t be considered in any other country."

"We do have more at stake than other countries, because of the huge efforts our agencies, councils and non-government organisations already put into conserving the New Zealand environment and the huge dependence we have on our primary sector ¡V we need to protect both.

"The breadth of the Protect New Zealand 'brand' has been quite intentional. Biosecurity is much more than a border issue - it goes beyond that to include all of the work being done to prevent pests and diseases entering New Zealand in the first place, and all of the large effort that goes into combatting pests and diseases which are here already and pose a threat to our way of life.

Mr Hellstrom also pointed to the wide range of government agencies that have contributed to Protect New Zealand Week in New Zealand, citing new resources published jointly by MAF, Ministry of Fisheries, Department of Conservation and the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

"Because the structure of biosecurity in New Zealand is different and the word and concept are so broad, we believe our programme has to be more far-reaching than border and quarantine issues. We need to make the connection to what it is we¡¦re trying to protect.

Mr Hellstrom said biosecurity was a fast-moving and vital issue for the future well-being of New Zealand. "The most exciting development we are likely to see in the next year is the development of New Zealand's first national Biosecurity Strategy. We expect that to be a huge help in delivering the best possible biosecurity programme for New Zealand and we also expect public awareness and education to be a key component".

"The UK is just picking itself up from last year's foot and mouth disaster and the campaign they started this week (www.defra.gov.uk) is much more one-dimensional because there simply isn't the same potential to manage biosecurity threats as there are here. Some people talk about it being inevitable that foot and mouth will hit New Zealand one day ¡V that won¡¦t be the case if all the frameworks and systems we have in place continue to work as well as they do and if we keep looking for continuous improvements.

Figures already available for Protect New Zealand Week show hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders were reached during the week through radio advertising and interviews on the RadioWorks network, a surge in visits to the website at www.protectnz.org.nz, media coverage and activities which included:

- displays and a touring truck
- public events including a celebrity debate in Auckland
- holiday programmes and colouring competitions

The awareness week ends with beagle walks and detector dog demonstrations at parks in Auckland (Cornwall Park), Wellington (Botanical Gardens) and Christchurch (Hagley Park) at 1pm this Sunday.

For further biosecurity media releases, backgrounders and interviews with a group of community and industry 'biosecurity advocates' from regions throughout New Zealand visit the Protect New Zealand Week page at www.protectnz.org.nz More information on the New Zealand Biosecurity Strategy currently under development is available at www.biostrategy.govt.nz

Two national biosecurity conferences to watch out for in the next month are:

„h 2002 Conference of the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute - Invercargill from 24 to 26 July (see www.biosecurity.org.nz); and the

„h New Zealand Plant Protection Society Plant Protection Biosecurity Symposium (see www.hortnet.co.nz/publications/nzpps/bioscprg.htm)

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