Biosecurity adapts to times

By Mark Ross

The Biosecurity Reform Bill was passed into law in September. This updates the Biosecurity Act 1993 accounting for new technology and risk management approaches and improved efficiency.

This was a much-needed piece of reformed legislation as the Biosecurity Act, last amended in 1997, had not kept up with the changing face of New Zealand's biosecurity system.

The reformed Act covers all aspects of the biosecurity system, including:

  • Border risk management - preventing the introduction of harmful organisms while facilitating safe trade.

  • Readiness - preparing for the possible introduction of harmful organisms.

  • Response - responding to the discovery of new harmful organisms.

  • Pest management - managing the impacts of established harmful organisms.

As a key part of the Act's consultation process, Federated Farmers endorses the changes as a means of improving our biosecurity systems.

The primary sector must have confidence in the Government agencies keeping New Zealand free of unwanted pests and diseases.

The Federation believes the Act achieves this, allowing for tighter regulation for transitional and containment facilities, better collaboration between agencies, improvements in the Import Health Standard process and improved powers to access information necessary for risk assessments of cargo and passengers.

The Act also guides regional councils, agencies such as the Animal Health Board and the Crown on managing established pests and diseases. Government's function as the leader of pest management systems and regional councils' role is also specified.

Crown land will be required to be part of pest management strategies, enhancing the previously unclear good neighbour principle. We anticipate the changes will lead to a more effective pest management process, especially for private landowners.

For the primary sector, the most significant changes relate to the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) provisions.

GIA's will create partnerships more focussed on joint decision-making and cost sharing for readiness and response.. The partnerships will focus on delivering the best possible outcomes for biosecurity activities. To ensure the GIA is not a financial burden to industry groups, a joint working party is working with the Ministry for Primary Industries to develop a Deed of Agreement and determine the value of entering into such agreements.

There are a variety of sticky issues to be overcome. Cost sharing for biosecurity outside current arrangements is one. Some sectors will find it hard to justify entering into a GIA.

Although the new Act allows for sector levies to obtain funds, it is hoped this does not occur. Government and industry need to work together to ensure effective biosecurity systems without unfairly burdening costs onto the primary industry.

- Hamilton News

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