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Government Making A Mess Of Biosecurity

16 November 2005

Government Making A Mess Of Biosecurity

The Government is indecisive, confused, and making a mess of the biosecurity portfolio, National Associate Conservation spokesman Eric Roy said today.

Mr Roy said the continuing debacle over the didymo or ‘rock snot’ outbreak was snowballing into a critical threat to all waterways in New Zealand.

“We have this pest which may close some of our major fishing rivers for who knows how long, and the response is rudderless. We don’t know who is co-ordinating the response, as Jim Anderton, Chris Carter, Biosecurity NZ and the Department of Conservation seem to be taking a long time to make even the most basic decision on didymo,” he said.

“While Ministers decide who is in charge, the horse has bolted.”

“Didymo was discovered in the Mararoa and Lower Waiau rivers in October 2004. It wasn't till June 2005 that $835,000 – a paltry amount - was released for management. The rivers only became controlled areas on the 19th August 2005. Restrictions were applied to whitebaiting four days after the start of the fishing season. All this illustrates is a lack of leadership, ideas and responsibility from Jim Anderton and his predecessor Jim Sutton,” Mr Roy said.

“Now we hear the research programme on how to control the disease is due back in April 2006 – 18 months after the pest was discovered. Add to that Conservation Minister Carter deferring a decision on banning fishing in the Upper Buller River for two weeks so Biosecurity New Zealand can decide on the best ways of controlling didymo. They’ve had over a year and done very little – why defer this decision for another fortnight?”

“The Government don’t even appear to know what they are doing – Carter says they will be deciding on the best way to control didymo in the Buller River within two weeks. Yet Biosecurity NZ is talking about not having any concrete control options until April next year. And why isn’t Jim Anderton taking the lead? It’s a mess.”

Mr Roy said Biosecurity NZ’s lack of action and information to recreational river users was a major concern.

“Biosecurity NZ has not grabbed this issue and dealt with it effectively. Everyone should be worried about the holes it shows in our border controls and the Government’s ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ approach to this issue.”

“We cannot wait until Chris Carter or Jim Anderton makes their mind up. Biosecurity NZ need to start doing something – even simple things like setting up areas for anglers to clean their gear, something that Fish and Game have had to organise off their own initiative,” he said.

Mr Roy said he believed a lot of people did not realise the substantial damage that could be caused by didymo smothering river habitats and destroying food sources for fish because Biosecurity NZ was not effectively publicising the issue to river users.

ENDS

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