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Beware the black widow - Greens

Beware the black widow

Green Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street today said New Zealanders should be on the lookout for poisonous spiders when handling Californian grapes after MAF agreed to allow both the grapes and the spiders back into New Zealand.

The import of Californian grapes was suspended in November 2001 after four live black widow spiders were found in New Zealand in three months.

In announcing the decision to resume the imports MAF Biosecurity Leader Christine Reed noted that 'We fully expect that new species, including exotic spiders, will still be detected in New Zealand from time to time'.

"The decision to allow the import of Californian grapes shows MAF is more concerned with trade than with protecting New Zealanders and our primary production," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"In announcing the decision to resume imports MAF are admitting more spiders will find their way here. They are putting this trade ahead of the very possible risks that New Zealanders could be bitten by these spiders or that they could become established here.

"I want to know what has changed since these imports were originally suspended - particularly in terms of the screening and fumigation process."

Mr Ewen-Street asked how many more live poisonous spiders would have to be found here before the trade was shut down for good.

"Our wine producers should also be very angry about this short-sighted decision. Californian vineyards have been decimated by the vine-killing Pierce's Disease. If this disease ever found its way here it could cripple our burgeoning wine industry.

"MAF's admission that they 'fully expect' to find spiders in these imports show how fanatical Government has become about trade. We are prepared to take unacceptable risks to both our people and our economy in order to keep our trading partners happy," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"Since we banned the shipment of Californian table grapes we have sourced grapes from elsewhere. This seems to have been completely satisfactory. Why can we not continue to do the same?"

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