Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor has today announced a crackdown on transitional facilities following the Tauranga discovery of a brown marmorated stink bug late last year.
The minister made the announcement in Tauranga this morning among a meeting of horticultural, port and agricultural representatives.
O'Connor said there were 4518 facilities around New Zealand where containers of imported goods were checked for biosecurity risks, but these were expected to be whittled down to fewer numbers as the standards of each were to be increased.
O'Connor told the Bay of Plenty Times transitional facilities would now have to "up their game" and ensure each staff member at each place was qualified with extra training, at their own cost.
There were 29 transitional facility handling imports within 2km of where a brown marmorated stink bug was found in Tauranga in December. The discovery was caught early because a member of the public recognised the stink bug and alerted authorities.
O'Connor warned New Zealand should anticipate more pests at our borders as more countries around the world became infested.
This was why it was so important to ensure the facilities checking incoming goods to the country were doing the best job they could. If that resulted in some "more lax" facilities unable to meet those standards, that was not necessarily a bad thing, he said.
O'Connor said while some facilities were already operating with high standards, he believed there were others which took a "more casual approach" but they would be forced to get better or not operate.
"They are on the front-line for keeping out unwanted pests like the stink bug, which could destroy our horticultural crops, cost our economy billions of dollars and literally be a plague on our houses if they become established in New Zealand."
Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Stu Hutchings said the reviews of transitional facilities was "really quite heartening".
"Obviously, the impact of brown marmorated stink bug is potentially massive. We've been liaising with a lot of our industries in the [United] States where 30 to 50 per cent of fruit has been lost in kiwifruit orchards.
"It's quite a significant concern."
Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital co-chair Graeme Marshall said the greatest triumph was the heightened public awareness of the risks of brown marmorated stink bugs.
"That awareness is one of the key ways we are going to win this battle."
Brown marmorated stink bug
What you can do
Keep watch for these bugs. If you think you've found one – catch it and call us immediately on 0800 80 99 66.
What does it look like?
Adults are about the size of a $1 coin and have:
- white banding on the antennae
- alternate black and white markings on the abdomen
- eggs that are light green, barrel-shaped, and found in clusters of 20-30.