New Zealand Drafts Biosecurity Plan Against Pests
WELLINGTON, New Zealand, December 16, 2002 (ENS) - New Zealandís largest national conservation organization is welcoming the release of the draft Biosecurity Strategy as a critical step towards the protection of New Zealand's environment from pests and diseases. But isolated New Zealand's biosecurity systems are under pressure from increasing travel and trade, and critics say the new plan does not go far enough in protecting the country from invasive plants and animals.
The Biosecurity Council has an independent chair, and includes chief executives of the Department of Conservation, and the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry, Health, Fisheries, Environment, Maori Development (Te Puni Kokiri), Research, Science and Technology; the Environmental Risk Management Authority, representatives of regional councils, primary production industry, environmental organizations, and the group director of Ministry Agriculture and Forestry's (MAF) Biosecurity Authority.
Asian gypsy moths, Argentine ants, red fire ants, Chinese mitten crabs, European shore (green) crabs, Mediterranean fan worms, exotic mosquitoes - they are all invading the isolated ecosystems of New Zealand. Separation from its nearest neighbor, Australia, by 2,000 kilometers of ocean is less protection today than it has been in the past.
The government intends to finalize the Biosecurity Strategy before June 2003, after analyzing submissions and assessing strategic and operational policy options.
Forest and Bird's Biosecurity Awareness Officer, Geoff Keey, said, "New Zealand's natural environment is being attacked by a deluge of pests. Some like rats, stoats and ferrets came a long time ago. Others like painted apple moth are new arrivals."
"The controversy around painted apple moth and the recent discovery that red backed spiders had sneaked past the border shows how important it is to do border inspections properly the first time. Aucklanders won't want to be sprayed from a DC3 every couple of years because yet another pest sneaked past the border," Keey said.
"The Biosecurity Strategy must ensure that no more pests become established," Keey said.
"Nature is paying a heavy price for this pest invasion: whio (blue duck) and mohua (yellowhead) and kiwi are declining and will go extinct unless we protect them from predators," he said.
Forest and Bird is seeking the adoption of a precautionary approach - if in doubt keep it out - and the polluter pays principle.
The draft strategy acknowledges the need to take precautions. "New Zealand takes a precautionary approach in developing its risk analyses," the strategy states. "Wherever there is uncertainty, with a risk of damaging impacts, conservative decisions based on mainstream scientific views should be made. A precautionary approach also needs to recognize most negative decisions also carry risks and consequences."
But there is still the controversial issue of whose authority prevails over biosecurity decisions to be settled.
But the draft strategy recommends designating MAF and MFISH as lead agencies for terrestrial and marine biosecurity respectively.
Forest and Bird is calling for 100 percent inspection and cleaning of shipping containers, instead of the current target of 25 percent, as too many pests can sneak in on shipping containers.
Keey said, "Biosecurity is probably the most heavily reviewed area of government work. Reviews to date have made over 150 recommendations. Now its time to turn those recommendations into action."