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World jetboat event to allowed to proceed

11 October 2005

Change to race plan, strict cleaning, allow world jetboat event to proceed.

Jetboating New Zealand has agreed to exclude all rivers known to be affected with Didymo from the World Jetboat Marathon and complete intensive cleaning of boats between rivers, allowing the event to proceed, Biosecurity New Zealand announced this afternoon.

The change in itinerary means the Oreti and upper Clutha Rivers will be dropped from the race schedule.

The race organisers have agreed to clean the jet boats before moving from river to river. A jetboat-specific set of cleaning requirements, drawn up with input from jetboat manufacturers and users, with BNZ risk analysis, will be provided. Otago Regional Council staff will be at the event to make sure that appropriate cleaning of the boats, trailers and other equipment is carried out. Biosecurity New Zealand’s Post-Clearance Director Peter Thomson says.

The decision to allow the event to go ahead follows months of dialogue with the event organisers, and Environment Southland and Otago Regional Council staff to mitigate the risks of spread, and calls to cancel it altogether.

“We have to treat this event on the same footing as other river users, and we recognise the importance of the event.”

“We’ve had significant discussions with the organisers, and they’ve submitted a proposal including itinerary changes and enhanced cleaning. Today Biosecurity New Zealand risk analysts, working with jetboat manufacturers, have completed detailed cleaning procedures that sufficiently address the risks. With these cleaning procedures being used, jetboating, whether in the marathon event or other recreational use should pose no more risk than any other river activity.

“This isn’t a dinghy race, this is a world-class professional jetboat event that will do much for sport in New Zealand, and the economies of Otago and Southland. The reality of managing Didymo is that we can now demonstrate we can still host these world class events and manage the risks, otherwise New Zealand will be the loser.

“Biosecurity New Zealand accepts that any decision on this event will be unpopular in some quarters. However, we are satisfied the approach being taken more than adequately addresses the risks,” he said.

“Personal responsibility has always been, and will continue to be, our best weapon to combat the spread of Didymo. If the debate about this event adds to public awareness, then that’s great.

“We’ve taken a fair amount of criticism, but we accept we have to subject to scrutiny. However, BNZ has to be mindful of the bigger picture. We take the best advice we can get from experts in the field.”

Peter Thomson said some commentators seemed keen to imply that BNZ had failed to contain Didymo.

“The facts are that our advice right from the start of this incursion was that it was likely that Didymo had already spread. Credible evidence since then suggests Didymo has been here several years before it was reported. Efforts to find it, despite several suspect samples, found nothing other than in the initial two Southland rivers until the Buller River sample at the end of last month.

“No connection, other than the organism being Didymo, can be made between any of the subsequent findings. It is entirely possible that the Buller contamination predates the Southland one, and has only shown up now because local conditions are suitable for it to bloom.”

Mr Thomson said there were other facts that needed to be forefront on the critics’ radar.

“Didymo is an organism new to the Southern Hemisphere. No country has ever successfully contained or eradicated it. From the outset, BNZ was hamstrung by the lack of science available. The work that has been done has made New Zealand the world authority. Suggestions that we’ve been sitting doing nothing are totally uninformed. BNZ is continuing work on potential management options. If anyone has any constructive ideas, short of nuking rivers, we’re open to suggestions,” he said.

“The focus now is on developing long-term control options and ensuring every New Zealander knows how to reduce the risk of spread. We have requested proposals from research organisations to develop control methods that could be implemented within river systems. These include chemical, biological and mechanical options. If successful, these methods could be used to reduce the impacts of Didymo.”

Biosecurity New Zealand’s own environmental trials will proceed this summer as planned.

ENDS

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