Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor has swiftly responded to claims he doesn't know whether pork entering the country has African swine fever.

National's Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker released a statement outlining concerns that visitors to New Zealand were bringing in illegal pork products over the holiday period.

"In the Primary Production Select Committee last month it was revealed of the 6500 pork imports in to New Zealand, about 600 were not declared, and none had been tested for African Swine Fever" said Walker.

He urged the Government to increase surveillance and consider more stringent controls on pork imports and called on O'Connor to "put in preventative measures to protect our pork industry".

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Walker's comments were an example of the National Party "trying to stir up fear, which is irresponsible and helps no one" said O'Connor in a statement.

"New Zealand has had import restrictions in place for pork products for many years and the Government has been taking additional measures since the start of the global outbreak last year to ensure this animal disease doesn't get in to the country".

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister, Damien O'Connor. Photo / Andrew Warner
Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister, Damien O'Connor. Photo / Andrew Warner

O'Connor said the Government had also boosted biosecurity funding by $22 million in the last Budget and were overhauling the 27 year old Biosecurity Act.

"We're not taking any chances, we're doing everything we can to protect our pork industry, and we're working closely with the industry, who also have a role to play in protecting themselves".

O'Connor said New Zealand was very well protected by a range of measures, including the following:

• Live pigs are not imported into New Zealand.

• New Zealand does not allow pork products to be brought in by travellers. The biosecurity risk presented by illegal imports is removed by seizing them at the border and destroying them immediately. This also removes the need for testing these undeclared items.

• An increase in the level and presence of signage at international airports to alert arriving travellers of the risk of bringing pork products into New Zealand.

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• Commercial pork products can only be imported into New Zealand if they meet strict import conditions. This requires measures to ensure the products are free from ASF.

• Fresh or frozen pork can only be imported from ASF-free countries, zones or regions. All other pork products imported to New Zealand have undergone a heat treatment process, such as canning, which destroys the ASF virus.

• Testing occurs prior to export in Europe, which removes the need for further testing in this country. New Zealand also had trust in its trading partners and their assurances around commercial consignments.