Serious about biosecurity PM

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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Many biosecurity threats are being taken seriously and the Ministry of Primary Industries is up to the job despite past failures, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key was asked by Hawke's Bay Today to give an assurance that the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) would make no more poor biosecurity decisions, as it did when it allowed kiwifruit pollen to be imported from countries known to be infected with the Psa-V bacteria.

"The first thing is we take it very seriously.

"The Government acted very quickly with the industry to try [to] resolve the issues around Psa as fast as we can. It ... spreads very rapidly," he said.

MPI was a conservative ministry and MrKey said he was sure the advice it was given "was that it wasn't risky".

"Why they got that advice, where they got that advice and whether it was wrong are issues that MPI have to answer.

"But from the Government's point of view, whether it is Psa or Painted Apple Moth or any of the biosecurity incursions that we have had, it takes them very seriously and we worry about them."

When asked if that meant that nothing would change in the ministry, he said it always tried "to get the best advice and to make sure that it is closely followed".

"We take these things very seriously. I know there is dispute about exactly how and why things occurred and it is not always clear cut.

"All I can say is they act on the very best advice that they have and they are extremely conservative.

"So much of our income comes from agriculture and horticulture and production of food and we are two isolated islands. There is always a risk. The most obvious significant risk would be foot and mouth, but for the kiwifruit industry Psa is the equivalent of that."

The second case of Hawke's Bay Psa-V was confirmed on Wednesday and yesterday the disease was confirmed in Kerikeri, the first outbreak in Northland.

The disease has infected more than half of Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.

There are about 50 kiwifruit orchards in Hawke's Bay.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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