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Labour caught short on biosecurity

Shane Ardern
National Party Biosecurity Spokesman

7 October 2005

Labour caught short on biosecurity

Two biosecurity alarms within a month show that the Labour Government has failed to heed dire warnings made by the Auditor-General two years ago, says National’s Biosecurity spokesman, Shane Ardern.

He is commenting on the advance of the didymo (‘rock snot’) algae through South Island rivers, and the discovery of the clubbed tunicate (‘sea squirt’) in Lyttelton and Auckland harbours.

“These invasive algae are a major concern, and show once again that this Government does not have the resources or the response capability to protect the New Zealand environment from outside threat.

“A report by the Auditor-General two years ago warned that New Zealand was vulnerable to imported pests and diseases because of gaps in biosecurity.

“It listed bungling and missed opportunities by MAF staff and confusion between and within government departments involving the southern saltmarsh mosquito, painted apple moth, red fire ant, black widow spiders, and the varroa bee mite.

“The fact is that despite those warnings, New Zealand is still not prepared to deal with pest and disease incursions that could seriously threaten our economy. Didymo could harm tourism by damaging our trout fishery, and sea squirt could threaten our $200 million mussel business.

“Didymo could have been restricted to Southland's Mararoa and Waiau Rivers if appropriate action had been taken immediately. This stuff can be killed, but unfortunately they have to kill the river for a few years to do it. But surely it would have been better to sacrifice one or two rivers than let it spread through the South Island.

“Instead of making the tough decisions, Labour goes off and talks with greenie scientists, and by the time they come up with options it’s too late. The Minister, Jim Sutton, talked all through the election campaign about how Labour had improved biosecurity but we can see by these two outbreaks that very little has changed,” Mr Ardern says.

ENDS

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