Labour wants non-tariff barriers

Labour is calling for a ban on imports of fruit from all high-risk areas.

Labour is calling on the Government to immediately ban the importation of fruit from high-risk areas after the discovery of the second Queensland fruit fly in Whangarei today, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries this afternoon established a 1.5km controlled area around Parihaka where the fruit fly was found. Fresh fruit and some vegetables will not be permitted to be taken out of this zone.

“However, Labour believes more drastic action must be taken until the pathway these pests took into New Zealand has been determined.

“It seems pointless to set up a controlled area when we are still importing fruit from Australian states such as Queensland and New South Wales which are struggling to control fruit flies.

“Labour wants fruit imported from these states immediately halted until the Ministry for Primary Industries can assure the public our crucial horticulture industry can be protected from these devastating pests,” Damien O’Connor says.

MPI is treating the discovery of a fruit fly in Whangarei very seriously.

. . . MPI Deputy Director General Compliance and Response, Andrew Coleman, says the insect was trapped in the Parihaka area of Whangarei, approximately 400m from where a single fly was found in January this year.

“However, all our information at this stage tells us this detection is a new find and not related to the January incident.

 “Queensland fruit fly has been found four times in New Zealand previously, including the January Whangarei detection. In all these earlier cases, increased trapping found no further flies,” Mr Coleman says.

MPI has responded promptly and field teams are already working in the area setting additional traps to determine if other fruit flies are present and providing information to residents.

“As in January, it is vital we find out if the insect is a solitary find or if there is a wider population in Whangarei.

“This insect is an unwanted and notifiable organism that could have serious consequences for New Zealand’s horticultural industry and home gardeners.  It can damage a wide range of fruit and vegetables,” Mr Coleman says.

MPI is working closely with international trading partners and the horticultural industry to minimise the risk to New Zealand growers and exporters.

The Ministry is defining a controlled area around the location of the fruit fly detection and the movement of fruit and vegetables out of this area will be restricted. MPI will provide extensive information about this in the near future and will work closely with the local community. 

“The Whangarei community were immensely supportive of our efforts earlier this year and we anticipate they will be again. It is, of course, disappointing that this situation has recurred.”

Mr Coleman says the most likely way that fruit fly can arrive in New Zealand is in fresh fruit and vegetables.

MPI has strict import requirements in place to minimise this risk.  All plant material and fruit that can host the Queensland fruit fly can only be imported if it meets our standards and these include measures such as approved pre-export treatment or certification of pest freedom by exporting countries. Air and sea passengers are prohibited from bringing fresh fruit and vegetables into the country.

“The Ministry is aware that fruit fly populations have dramatically increased in Australia in recent months and in light of the previous Whangarei find, we have been reviewing our importing requirements for fruit fly risk goods.”  

Andrew Coleman says it is important to bear in mind that MPI has to date been highly successful in keeping this insect threat out of New Zealand crops.

“This latest find demonstrates the benefit and effectiveness of MPI’s lure-based surveillance trapping network and the biosecurity system. 

“By setting traps for these pest insects, we are able to detect their presence early, have assurance about exactly where the problem is located and respond faster and more effectively where finds like this are made.”

Residents in affected parts of Whangarei may notice increased activity in their neighbourhood over the next few days as MPI staff go about their inspections and trapping.  MPI asks that people support this important work.

An infestation of fruit fly would have a serious impact on our horticulture but O’Connor’s call for a ban is an over reaction.

That would effectively be a non-tariff barrier, similar to the one the Australians used to stop the importation of our apples.

New Zealand spent years battling that through the World Trade Organisation. We don’t want to go back there as the defendant.

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