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Pacific biosecurity information campaign launch

Hon Jim Sutton Speech Notes

Pacific biosecurity information campaign launch, Wellington

Ladies and Gentlemen: we are today to launch a new information programme designed to communicate important biosecurity messages to Pacific members of our community both here in New Zealand and in the Pacific.

The programme includes:

· Ongoing consultation with Pacific people;

· Multi-lingual print materials featuring Pacific imagery;

· Widespread distribution networks within Pacific communities both on and offshore; and

· Widespread newsprint and radio strategy in New Zealand and the Pacific.

Biosecurity is about protecting New Zealand and other Pacific nations from harmful pests and diseases ? stopping new ones from arriving and trying to get rid of or manage those that are already here.

This is a huge task for our governments and one that requires the support and co-operation of all visitors and residents.

Pacific people are frequent travelers. Every time a person arrives in New Zealand from an overseas country or sends goods to our country there is a possibility that unwanted pests and diseases could hitchhike into New Zealand.

Livestock and agricultural produce that form the mainstay of New Zealand's economy, as well as our environment, lifestyle and health could be seriously damaged by the outbreak of a new pest or disease.

The Government has recently committed an additional $90 million to combat on recent such hitchhiker. The Painted Apple Moth that has the potential to cost our country $350 million over the next 20 years.

In addition, there is an incalculable risk to our precious indigenous plants which is why the Conservation Minister and the Conservation Department have been among the strongest supporters of the eradication campaign.

Food and plant products such as taro, green bananas and cassava highly valued by Pacific nations are also at risk from unwanted pests and diseases. Taro Leaf Blight had a devastating effect on taro production in Samoa in the early 1990's. In 1993 Samoa produced 30,000 tonnes of taro. The next year, after an outbreak of the blight, none were produced.

Lacking robust biosecurity measures can not only leave you vulnerable to incoming pests and diseases, it can also prevent you from sending your fruit and vegetables to lucrative export markets. New Zealand is helping Pacific countries to improve their biosecurity systems so that they are able to export their products, not just to New Zealand but to the world. This capacity building ensures that Pacific people can take their place as world traders.

For the past 18 months, MAF's Protect New Zealand programme has been working with a range of community, ethnic, and industry groups to provide tailored information about relevant pest and disease risks and the simple steps they can take to prevent new incursions and help get rid of existing pests and diseases.

The programme has worked closely with people who have special information requirements because of the industries they work in, the interests they pursue, or for cultural and language reasons.

Like many other cultures, food is at the centre of family and community activities for Pacific people. People traveling to New Zealand from the Pacific often bring gifts of food prepared in traditional ways.

Many of the fresh fruit, vegetable and meat items that umu packs contain need special checking and documentation to ensure they are not playing host to hitchhikers such as mosquito larvae, or fruit fly.

A quick look at the statistics MAF collects at the border demonstrate the excellent co-operation of Pacific visitors and people returning home from Pacific countries.

Overall, people arriving from Pacific countries have a higher declaration rate for biosecurity risk goods than people traveling to New Zealand from any other country.

While 66-78% of seized items from all countries are declared, 70-87% of seized items from Pacific countries are declared. This is a fantastic achievement and one that needs to be reinforced so that people continue to tell MAF about risk items so they can be checked for any signs of pests and diseases.

MAF are grateful for the many community and government groups who have helped ensure that the information campaign meets the needs of the Pacific community:

· The Pacific Reference Group provided invaluable feedback on the campaign strategy;

· Many individuals from Pacific communities have had input into the development of the booklets, posters and other resources;

· Pacific translators and peer reviewers have enabled communication of written messages in different Pacific languages; and

· the Pacific radio in Auckland have assisted with the production of multilingual radio messages.

All members of the Pacific community will benefit from an increased public understanding of the simple steps people traveling and sending goods to other countries can take to prevent the spread of unwanted pests and diseases.

Thank you.


ENDS

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