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Forest and Bird wants biosecurity a top priority

14 November, 2000

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Forest and Bird wants biosecurity a top priority.

Contact: Karli Thomas ph: (04) 385-7374 work or (04) 385-3646 home

Fixing the holes in New Zealand’s border control should be a number one priority for the country, according to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

Forest and Bird’s Biosecurity Awareness Officer, Karli Thomas, said the Society’s view that New Zealand biosecurity standards are inadequate has been vindicated by the recent release of audit reports showing deficiencies in MAF Quarantine Service. “These come in the wake of an alarming number of unwanted species being found in New Zealand this year, including venomous spiders, snakes and poisonous cane toads.”

“Biosecurity is vital to the future of our country. New Zealand is in a unique situation, as an island nation reliant on primary production and with a unique and vulnerable flora and fauna.”

“It is not good enough to say that ‘our biosecurity is better than theirs’ because we have a much greater need for biosecurity than most other countries,” Ms Thomas said. “We can’t compare ourselves to countries that already have invasive species, snakes, and many agricultural diseases that are not present in New Zealand.”

“We want New Zealand to be more pro-active in improving our own biosecurity procedures, leading other countries by example, and taking decisive trade action against countries that compromise our biosecurity standards.”

Ms Thomas said “the liberalisation of international trade means that it is more important than ever to reserve our right to deny imports that put our environment and primary production at risk. We shouldn’t be afraid to use this right.”

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Forest and Bird was concerned by comments from the Minister of Biosecurity, Marian Hobbs, in response to the audit reports. The Minister was quick to assure our trading partners that they need have “absolutely no worry” about the exports they receive from New Zealand.

“Forest and Bird believes that the top priority of the Minister should be the biosecurity of our own country. The best way to assure the world that we are a safe trading nation is to keep unwanted pests and diseases out of New Zealand in the first place,” Ms Thomas said.

“The discovery of four venomous spiders in table grapes from California within six weeks, and thirteen snakes in the last two years, should be enough to warn anybody that there is something wrong with our biosecurity systems.”

Forest and Bird welcomes the Prime Minister’s interest in this issue. Ms Thomas said the Society would be writing to the Minister of Biosecurity, requesting that the government:

 Implement their election policy of making New Zealand a ‘safe trading nation’.
 Allocate greater funding to biosecurity, including establishing an incursion response fund.
 Get tough on other countries that repeatedly compromise our biosecurity, suspending trade until their standards are improved.
 Establish a separate Ministry of Biosecurity – adequately funded, equipped and trained to be an international leader in biosecurity.

…… ends

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