Government Industry Agreements progressing

By Mark Ross

Industry has sought assurance that its investment in the biosecurity system would be of value and its underwriting exposure was clear and manageable.

The passing of the Biosecurity Reform Bill in November allows work on the much-talked about Government Industry Agreement (GIA) framework for biosecurity to progress.

These GIAs are about biosecurity readiness and response; planning around potential high-risk pests and responses should a harmful exotic pest arrive within New Zealand. They are being developed as a means of delivering an integrated approach to prepare for and effectively respond to biosecurity risks.

The GIAs will result in joint decision-making and cost-sharing between Government and industry, up to a pre-determined maximum. Industry will pay no more than 50 per cent of any costs resulting from biosecurity actions.

To progress GIAs, a joint industry and Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI) working group has developed a Memorandum of Understanding, allowing sector groups to enter into discussions with MPI as to the value of a GIA to an industry.

The working group includes representatives from Federated Farmers, horticulture, poultry, the meat industry, dairy, bees and kiwifruit. To date, 18 sector groups have signed into the Memorandum of Understanding with MPI.

The next stage in the process is approval of a GIA Deed of Agreement. This will be the master document outlining how the GIA will function between the different groups. Separate operational agreements, developed for each sector group under the Deed, will specify actual cost-sharing arrangements and designated high priority pests. The Government's intention is to have the Deed in place by June 30.

Industry has sought assurances that investments in the biosecurity systems would be of value and its underwriting exposure was clear and manageable. One of the primary sector's biggest concerns with GIAs is the efficiency of the current New Zealand biosecurity system and the need for assurance on all aspects of the biosecurity chain. This was expressed most strongly in relation to border and pre-border biosecurity.

Some groups have gone beyond biosecurity to look at the full range of industry engagement by MPI, along with integration and consistency across that wider scope.

The idea of Government engagement with industry on the "end-to-end biosecurity system" has been welcomed, but more definition is needed on what that might mean in practice.

The concept of "partnership" between Government and industry also needs further exploration and definition in terms of constructive two-way engagement. Some industries already make significant contributions to readiness and response.

For example, the deer, forestry, poultry and avocado industries invest in surveillance programmes to protect their industries and maintain, or gain, market access. The bee and kiwifruit industries also made significant in-kind contributions during the varroa and Psa responses.

Although these GIAs have benefits, industry groups are also concerned that the sources of biosecurity risk, or exacerbators, are not recognised in the funding model. Various options are being assessed by the working group to ensure, where needed, exacerbators are included within GIA funding arrangements.

The basic concept of these GIAs appears to have been agreed to by those involved, but the process still requires work to show the value to farmers and improve New Zealand's overall biosecurity performance.

- Hamilton News

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