The Big Issues: Border biosecurity top concern

By Paul Dykes

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The number of incursions in recent times could indicate that the border controls in place may not be sufficiently effective.
The number of incursions in recent times could indicate that the border controls in place may not be sufficiently effective.

In this fourth of a six-part series, Paul Dykes reveals a national survey that shows farmers and rural leaders give biosecurity as their priority.

Biosecurity lapses in the past few years have clearly focused minds on the need to protect our primary industries from foreign pests and diseases and have raised questions about the adequacy of present arrangements.

In the past year there has been widespread concern over perceived biosecurity risks where greater vigilance at the border could have mitigated risk and cost to the industry.

These included the discovery of white peach scale on imported kiwifruit in a Bay of Plenty supermarket, the new strain of theileria that is killing dairy stock, and two separate fruit fly incidents in Northland.

Little wonder then that maintaining a world-class biosecurity system to protect New Zealand again ranked as the priority for rural advocates taking part in KPMG's annual roundtable survey on agribusiness.

Concern was expressed that the number of incursions in recent times could indicate that the border controls in place may not be sufficiently effective, and that New Zealanders are too accepting of an increasingly porous border.

Professional services firm KPMG discovered these concerns when it held 13 sessions with rural business leaders throughout the country in March and April while researching its two-part 014 KPMG Agribusiness Agenda report.

In part 1, titled Facilitating Growth in an Uncertain World, KPMG's global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, says it was apparent during the conversations that most industry sectors have accepted the need to enter into a Government Industry Agreement (GIA) to better manage their specific risks.

Whereas last year the discussion centred on whether or not a sector should enter into a GIA with the Ministry of Primary Industries, it is now about what should be included in the GIA, and how costs should be shared between participants, KPMG found.

KPMG got the message that all sectors would ultimately sign GIAs, but the negotiation process would take time, as many industries remained concerned about committing to writing an open cheque when an incursion occurred on their patch.

The discussion threw up a range of points. Perhaps an indemnity fund should be built now out of levy receipts from industry participants; or maybe a special levy could be imposed at the time of the incursion.

Should higher post-incursion levies be charged to those that are directly benefiting from the incursion response?

KPMG says there was no easy or consistent response to these questions throughout the industry.

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