The Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA) are joining forces under the GIA (Government Industry Agreement) to improve forest biosecurity preparedness.

The first jointly-funded initiative under this partnership will be a forest biosecurity surveillance programme designed to detect unwanted forest pests and pathogens in high-risk places.

FOA and MPI recently signed the Commercial Plantation Forestry Sector Operational Agreement for Readiness under the GIA.

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"This agreement establishes a new way of working in partnership between the two organisations and will see a doubling of efforts to improve forest biosecurity readiness," says Andrew Spelman, MPI's Acting Director, Biosecurity Readiness.

"This continuing partnership will build on the considerable contribution the forest industry has made to biosecurity to date, and we look forward to collaborating to improve biosecurity processes and outcomes for New Zealand."

Chair of the FOA and Farm Forestry Association Biosecurity Committee, David Cormack, says the forest industry is delighted to be working with MPI on the new Forest Biosecurity Surveillance Programme.

"We've worked closely together for a long time but joint-funding is another level and demonstrates the commitment MPI has made to the forest industry."

The FOA have been a GIA signatory since November 2015.

Operational Agreement negotiations began in 2016, with a particular emphasis on cost-sharing forestry surveillance as a readiness activity.

Existing biosecurity readiness work in the sector includes an annual forest health survey, which the Government started in the 1950's, but has been fully funded by industry since the 1990's.

It also includes MPI's High Risk Site Surveillance Programme, which looks for pests and diseases that could affect a range of native and exotic trees, including production species.