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Vigilance needed for Biosecurity Strategy Results

Vigilance needed if Biosecurity Strategy is to deliver results.

Vigilance by the public of New Zealand will be vital if the new Biosecurity Strategy is to succeed according to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

"The Biosecurity Strategy is a welcome step forward but has not made the radical steps that many New Zealanders would have wished to see," said Forest and Bird biosecurity awareness officer Geoff Keey.

"Forest and Bird welcomes explicit acknowledgement of the concerns of conservationists. New money for biosecurity programmes and a commitment to plugging gaps in the system will make a difference," he said.

"The damage caused to New Zealand's native ecosystems by new pests has been so thorough that we have largely forgotten what New Zealand was once like. We know that damage new pests cause, ignorance is no longer an excuse. Forest and Bird will closely watch the implementation of this strategy to make sure it meets the expectations outlined in the report," he said.

"Now that MAF is the lead agency for biosecurity, it has to prove itself. The public of New Zealand will clamour for an independent agency if there are any more failures. New Zealanders will not tolerate another painted apple moth fiasco or news that yet another pest has become too established to enable eradication. New Zealand's got more than enough problems with the pests it has," he said.

"Protecting New Zealand's coastal waters from threats carried in ballast water or on fouled hulls will be one major challenge. Eradication of the invasive seaweed Undaria has been abandoned. The commitment to keeping marine pests out is critical for our marine environment, but won't be easy," he said.

"Another challenge will be to ensure that every shipping container is adequately inspected. Properly checking every container is vital but giving the job to importers is risky. Lets hope that importers show as much concern for New Zealand's environment as they do for the bottom line," he said.

"Forest and Bird was hoping for a stronger emphasis on the polluter pays approach. The importing sector poses the greatest source of potential new pests, but it's the victims who primarily pay - our threatened plants and animals, taxpayers, affected communities and affected businesses. New Zealand currently runs a 'victim pays' approach to biosecurity. That needs to change.

"The role of the Department of Conservation (DOC) is also unclear. DOC is extremely knowledgeable about New Zealand's environment. MAF needs the benefit of DOC's knowledge and commitment. It is unfortunate that the Strategy's recommendations are silent on this," he said.

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