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Opening of MAF National Technical Training Centre

SPEECH NOTES: HON JOHN LUXTON

Opening of the MAF National Technical Training Centre

Auckland, International Mail Centre 18 November 1999 (check against delivery)

It is my pleasure to be with you today to open the National Technical Training Centre.

The New Zealand economy relies heavily on trade in products derived from our natural resources and biological production systems. The Government's biosecurity policies and strategies are designed to protect and enhance New Zealand's precious environment. Our unique environment has made New Zealand one of the world's most beautiful countries and our diverse flora and fauna are a significant factor in our multi-million dollar tourist industry.

While New Zealand's geographical isolation confers a level of protection, our border is a dynamic situation and risks are changing all the time. With growing trade and increasing tourist numbers each year, the level of risk has obviously grown, but so has MAF's ability to deal with it.

MAF operates a highly sophisticated and internationally recognised border protection service. The development and use of sophisticated technologies have continued to protect New Zealand's unique biodiversity from the introduction of potentially devastating exotic pests and diseases.

I am delighted that the MAF Quarantine Service is continuing to implement leading edge technologies to protect the status of our environment and our food and fibre industries.

Nearly 3.5 million travellers will arrive in New Zealand this year who all present a potential biosecurity risk. They will undergo screening for risk goods by the Quarantine Service using state of the art x-ray technology, detector dog teams and highly skilled quarantine officers.

Over 450,000 passengers will have quarantine risk items in their possession. Of these, almost 60,000 have not declared them.

Our detector dog training and surveillance programme provides New Zealand with another inspection tool to detect potential fruit, meat, poultry, plant and seed risk goods at international points of entry.

Today we are here to recognise the significant milestone of the three dog teams who have each achieved 1000 high risk quarantine seizures. That is an outstanding achievement.

The success of this programme has resulted in considerable interest from quarantine agencies around the world. And our Quarantine Service has already run training courses for dog handlers from America and Argentina. New Zealand trained beagles will also be actively involved in quarantine work in Australia and USA.

The current quarantine seizure detection rate (95% of fruit fly host material and 85% of meat and meat products) at international airports has led to a disturbing change in tactic with a 300% increase in risk goods now being sent in by mail. In response MAF have introduced new processing procedures and technology.

Today I have great pleasure in commissioning three new x-ray machines at the International Mail Centre, which will ensure detection levels will match those at our international airports.

Most of the 63 million inward bound mail items will undergo biosecurity screening by these sophisticated machines. Specially trained mail detector dogs complement the screening process.

Another major development is the introduction of a National Diploma in Biosecurity onto the Qualifications Framework. The development of NZQA approved unit standards is being undertaken concurrently with the ISO17020 quality system project. I congratulate MAF for this initiative. It not only demonstrates the technical and quality focus of the organisation, but also affords a method of national external review and accreditation of staff and processes.

The new National Technical Training Centre, will not only deliver internal specialised technical training to Quarantine Service staff, but will also provide for other international quarantine organisations to participate in New Zealand programmes.

As this very moment senior quarantine staff from the USA and New Caledonia are in New Zealand receiving specialist training.

Protecting the New Zealand primary industry sector and the environment on which much of our inbound tourism is based is a key Government strategy. The initiatives we will see today are tangible evidence of our Government's commitment in this area of biosecurity.

Please share with me in the events that will follow. I look forward to meeting with you personally over lunch.


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