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Didymo Shows Wider Crisis In Biosecurity

Didymo Shows Wider Crisis In Biosecurity

The lack of leadership in the didymo crisis shows a much wider crisis facing biosecurity in New Zealand, according to National’s Associate Conservation Spokesman Eric Roy.

Mr Roy said he had been to a Biosecurity NZ briefing three weeks ago and asked what was being done to inform anglers and other river users about what they can do to stop the spread of didymo.

“I was told the public information was being taken care of. I told them at the time it was a load of horse manure, as when I purchased my fishing licence I saw nothing about didymo,” he said. “Biosecurity NZ assured me they would get on to it. Nothing was done.”

“Late last week I went to shops in Gore and I was appalled there was still no information available for anglers or others. On November 1 fishing on the Fiordland rivers that feed our lakes begins – but there’s still nothing to inform anglers of what steps they need to take to avoid spreading didymo.”

“Biosecurity NZ has missed the opportunity to get a message to anglers – and it is a missed opportunity that illustrates a real lack of leadership in our biosecurity regime.”

Mr Roy said that didymo was one of two pests wreaking havoc on New Zealand’s waterways, with the sea squirt also an issue in that cruise ships visiting Auckland and then Fiordland and Stewart Island could introduce that pest and destroy aquaculture and adversely affect the natural environment.

“We have the Government adopting an ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ approach to any biosecurity issue – they need to be reactive rather than proactive,” he said.

Mr Roy said while agencies were doing a lot of talking, no-one had yet come up with any concrete plans to deal with the spread of didymo.

“On the Biosecurity website today there is the following statement : ‘While we continue to learn more about the biology and ecology of Didymo in New Zealand, Biosecurity New Zealand will take precautions to limit the spread of Didymo to unaffected areas.’ What utter rot – nothing concrete is being done even at the most basic level to educate river users.”

“Biosecurity have been talking about this for over a year. Talk is cheap, but we need solutions – and no-one appears to be coming up with solutions to this pest which is changing the biodiversity of our waterways in an extremely negative fashion.”

Mr Roy said Biosecurity had analysed scientific studies from overseas but was sitting on its hands.

“The overseas studies are limited. We need to be taking the lead here and finding a solution in New Zealand. Extra funding and research capability must be provided by the Government or we will have severe habitat loss and adverse recreational effects,” he said.

He said that after he intervened, Fish and Game Southland had produced some material for local anglers and had put protocols in place.

“Fish and Game should not have had to do this in isolation – Biosecurity NZ should have had this issue sorted out a long time ago. The Government has shown a distinct lack of leadership and vigilance in biosecurity over the last few years and we will pay for it through the loss of our waterways to this pest.”


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