The independent report into the Psa incursion which has had such a devastating affect on kiwifruit orchards has found shortcomings in systems and processes of what was then the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
It is up to what is now the Ministry of Primary Industry to respond swiftly and Director-General Wayne McNee has:
“The review has found shortcomings in the way MPI’s (then MAF) systems and processes were applied to the importation of kiwifruit, kiwifruit pollen, kiwifruit nursery stock, kiwifruit seeds and horticultural equipment, prior to the Psa outbreak.
“While the review also says that it does not automatically follow that these shortcomings contributed to the entry of Psa-V into New Zealand, improvements are needed, and MPI is moving immediately to implement those improvements,” Mr McNee said.
“The Ministry will implement all six recommendations from the review and will report to the Minister for Primary Industries in three months time on progress.”
Mr McNee said the review had found that although the biosecurity risks associated with the importing of goods could never be entirely mitigated, protections could be improved by MPI, industry and Crown Research Institutes working more closely to understand emerging risks.
Federated Farmers calls the report a robust but positive wake-up call.
Federated Farmers is convinced the independent and robust Sapere Research Group review into the entry of Psa will lead to significant improvements at the border.
“The old MAF was so confident in its import health standard for pollen, it said there was no peer-reviewed scientific evidence pollen was a pathway for bacteria,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President and spokesperson on biosecurity
“That contrasts strongly with the independent Sapere Research Group review of how Psa entered New Zealand. This review provides policy makers with a model for independently conducted post-border incursion investigations.
“The Sapere review cuts to the chase. We can give credit to the new Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for opening itself up to soul searching analysis. That said, it comes against a $410 million backdrop; the projected cost of this biosecurity failure.
“Even in tough economic times, Federated Farmers believes there should be more resources for biosecurity than just reprioritising current ones.
“We need biosecurity to be robust because it is our first and last line of environmental and economic defence. Any homeowner knows scrimping on insurance is a false economy when you need to claim against it. Incursions like Psa not only cost export revenue but jobs too.
“Biosecurity is a tangible feature driving our overall reputation as an exporter and as a destination. Tourism is a risk vector, but benefits from high levels of biosecurity being maintained. We suggest passenger and cargo levies could be used to build a response fund.
“While the report doesn’t mention it, we also need robust systems to identify emerging disease threats and developments.
“Government Industry Agreements are an opportunity for the MPI to integrate information and improve communication with industry. Yet the primary industries shouldn’t just leave biosecurity to government as ‘its job’. We are pleased this report confirms recent moves by the MPI to give farmers a greater say on border protection.
“One practical example of what Federated Farmers wants to see reinstated is the Animal and Plant Biosecurity Consultative Committees. Disbanded under the old MAF, they provided a valuable exchange of information between industry and the Ministry.
“We believe the MPI now has a golden opportunity to integrate them within Government Industry Agreement frameworks,” Dr Rolleston concluded.
The Psa, incursion has been to the kiwifruit industry what foot and mouth disease could be for livestock farming.
Whole orchards have been infected, businesses – and retirement plans - destroyed and millions of dollars lost from the local and national economy.
The response to the incursion was swift but that is no comfort for those whose vines were infected.
It might not have been shortcomings in MAF procedures which allowed the importation of the infection but MPI isn’t making excuses and is implementing all six recommendations in the report.
Every traveller and import could potentially carry something that poses a risk to our plants and livestock. It is impossible to have 100% protection against that but the adoption by MPI of the recommendations should ensure an improvement in bio-security at our borders.
MPI’s response and action plan is here.