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MPI’s Seizure of Fruit Trees Unlawful

MPI’s Seizure of Fruit Trees Unlawful


The New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated, which represents commercial plant producers, is challenging the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)’s intention to use section 116 of the Biosecurity Act to seize fruit trees that have been caught up in the US quarantine issue.

MPI announced today that it would be seizing approximately 55,000 fruit trees from 4 nurseries around New Zealand. It follows an MPI audit in March which uncovered incomplete and incorrect record keeping at a US facility, which is responsible for screening apple and stone fruit plant cuttings before they are imported.

MPI has said that the material does not present a biosecurity risk at this stage, and that importers and nurseries are not at fault. The issue relates to a lack of record keeping at the US quarantine facility that has been identified years after the plant material was imported.

“We welcome MPI’s cautious approach to biosecurity. Like MPI, our plant producers want assurance that the trees are safe and here legally,” said Matt Dolan, chief executive of NZPPI.

“However, we strongly disagree with MPI’s decision to use a seizure notice under the Biosecurity Act because of the uncertainty about how the seizure notice can be reversed.

“It is inappropriate to use section 116 to seize plant material that has been legally imported into New Zealand and then found to be a problem years later. This section prevents nurseries from having access to compensation for loss of their plant material if MPI elects to destroy the trees in the future. This is unacceptable and is not in line with how our biosecurity system works in principle, or legally.

“There are other more appropriate mechanisms available under the Biosecurity Act that provide certainty to the owners of the material.”

Section 116 of the Biosecurity Act deals with contraband and hazardous goods that come across the border without documentation or are an obvious biosecurity risk. The seized plant material has met all importation requirements, including undergoing an extensive quarantine process in New Zealand.

“This is a massive blow to nurseries that risk losing the value of their trees and stalling the release of new varieties. Commercial fruit growers will also be affected as these new plant varieties are important for the future growth and value of the industry. The seized plant material represents ten years of investment in new variety development.

“The affected nurseries are committed to biosecurity and have cooperated fully with MPI. They were able to quickly track and locate all the plant material in question, even years after it was imported.”


ENDS


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