Law changes are enacted under urgency to support M.bovis eradication

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today announced a package of technical law changes to support the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme.

He said the response to cattle disease M.bovis has highlighted problems in the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (NAIT), primarily farmers not registering animal movements and a lack of compliance activities to ensure NAIT’s use.

Changes to the NAIT Act 2012, made under urgency in Parliament this week, will:

• Align the NAIT Act search powers with the Search and Surveillance Act.
• Make it clear that all animal movements must be declared to NAIT, even if the new location is not a registered NAIT location.
• Hold to account those who fail to declare those movements to NAIT.

These changes go no further than providing powers that already exist under other Acts, which allow officers to lawfully obtain information where non-compliance is an issue, the Minister said.

The Government has created three infringement offences under the Animal Products Act 1999 related to non-compliance with certain Animal Status Declaration requirements.

Furthermore, M.bovis is being made a notifiable organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

This means people who suspect the presence of the disease in a new location must report it to the Ministry for Primary Industries. Prompt reporting is necessary to eradicate the disease.

“Since getting the NAIT Review in April, compliance activities have been stepped up with hundreds of on-farm checks, compliance warnings, stock truck checks and 39 infringement notices – compared with one in the previous five years,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Today’s legislation marks another meaningful step in bolstering NAIT. We are already implementing nearly two dozen changes that don’t require legislative change, and will revisit NAIT legislation again in coming months after consulting on more changes, including making NAIT easier to use.”

National’s Agriculture spokesperson, Nathan Guy, said some changes to the NAIT legislation were needed, but Parliament had been denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise Government amendments which may not be in the best interests of farmers.

The Minister had had months to introduce the Bill into Parliament, but instead had expanded wide-ranging search powers under urgency, he said.

Among Guy’s concerns, Ministry for Primary Industries officials will be able to turn up on farmers’ properties without getting a warrant and seize anything they want, unannounced and without cause.

National had asked Mr O’Connor to send the Bill to a select committee during the two-week Parliamentary recess to allow public input and ensure there are no unintended consequences for farmers. Guy said the Minister refused.

“National proposed amendments during the debate that an officer needs reasonable cause to suspect non-compliance with NAIT before entering the property,” he said.

“We also proposed that these wide-ranging warrantless powers being curtailed, so a NAIT officer can’t seize property without obtaining a warrant.

“Unfortunately, both of these safeguard amendments were voted down by the Government.”

But National did successfully move an amendment that requires the Minister to report to Parliament next year on how these expanded powers are being used.

National reluctantly supported the legislation to improve NAIT’s performance but remains “gravely concerned about the process and invasion of farmer’s privacy”, Guy said.


Science group to help Mycoplasma bovis eradication efforts

A science advisory group has been formed to strengthen efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).

Members of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group will provide strategic scientific advice to the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

Announcing the group’s formation today, the Ministry for Primary Industries says science continues to be critical to the M. bovis response and the advisory group will be a valuable resource to enable current science activities to be scaled up and expanded.

“The advisory group will ensure we have on-going access to some of the best minds and knowledge relating to M. bovis, which will bolster the eradication effort,” says Roger Smith, head of Biosecurity New Zealand and chair of the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

The advisory group will contribute expertise on a range of science matters, including:

  • identifying any critical knowledge gaps and ways to address them, including considering emerging technologies and ideas that may help eradicate M. bovis;
  • prioritisation of M. bovis research efforts;
  • coordination of current and future science initiatives relating to M. bovis;
  • learning from other research programmes in New Zealand and internationally;
  • providing assurance that M. bovis eradication research efforts remain fit for purpose.

Members of the advisory group understand this is an unsettling time for many farmers and are moving quickly, says Dr John Roche, the group’s chair and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ departmental science adviser.

“The group has already identified some key priorities for immediate work, and will hold a workshop in September to get wider input into developing the broader science plan,” says Dr Roche.

Advisory group members –

John Roche – departmental science adviser, MPI (chair).

Glenn Browning – professor, director, Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Hamish Gow – professor of agribusiness, Massey University.

Nigel French – distinguished professor, executive director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre, Massey University.

Axel Heiser – senior scientist, immunology, AgResearch.

William McMillan – independent agri-business consultant and scientist;

Kaiārahi Ahuwhenua – Federation of Māori Authorities.

Trish McIntosh – director, North Canterbury Vets.

Roger Ayling – private consultant with extensive M. bovis research experience, United Kingdom.

Cameron Stewart – research scientist, Disease Prevention and Detection, CSIRO.

James Turner – resource economist and senior social scientist, AgResearch.

Shaun Hendy – director, Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Auckland, complex systems, networks, and mathematical modelling.

Prue Williams – general manager Science System Investment and Performance, MBIE.

Veronica Herrera – director, Diagnostics and Surveillance Services, MPI.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Tighter import rules are aimed at stopping stink bug

New treatment and cleaning rules for imported vehicles and machinery will make it harder for brown marmorated stink bugs to make landfall in New Zealand, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The ministry released the new import health standard for vehicles, machinery and equipment today. It will come into force on  September 1 – the beginning of the stink bug season.

“Imported vehicles and machinery pose a high biosecurity risk, as stink bugs hibernate in nooks and crannies during the northern hemisphere winter,” says Paul Hallett, MPI manager of facilities and pathways.

He says the new standard has a big focus on Japan following biosecurity issues earlier this year with contaminated vehicle carriers.

There are also new restrictions on imports from many European countries, recognising the spread of stink bug through this part of the world.

“One of the big things is making it compulsory for treatment to take place offshore for non-containerised vehicles and machinery sourced from affected countries. We simply don’t want to run the risk of having contaminated cargo enter New Zealand waters.

“The new standard also covers new vehicles from Japan. In the past, we have focused on used vehicles from this country. New vehicles can be easily contaminated if they are not securely stored.”

The approved treatment options are fumigation with methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride and heat treatment, says Mr Hallett.

“We expect most of the imports from Japan will undergo heat treatment, as that’s going to be available locally and Japan has restrictions on some fumigants.

“We want to do everything we can to stop brown marmorated stink bug from invading New Zealand, given the damage it could cause to our horticulture industry.”


  • 14 more countries have been added to the list requiring mandatory treatment of vehicles and machinery during the stink bug season. This requirement previously only applied to vehicles from the United States and Italy.
  • Used imports from Japan will need to be both treated and cleaned offshore as part of an approved system during the season.
  • All other new and used imports (during the stink bug season) from other countries covered by the standard will need to be treated or go through an approved system.
  • Vehicle manufacturers will have the option of applying to MPI for biosecurity approval of their supply chain processes, avoiding the need to treat each new unit. This involves having strict controls in place to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Used machinery from any country must have a certificate proving it has undergone thorough cleaning and treatment before arrival in New Zealand. There must be evidence the machinery was disassembled for cleaning. It must also arrive with a sticker showing how and when it was treated.
  • MPI can approve alternative treatments, but only if there is proof they can produce the same outcome as the approved methods.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Science category included in 2018 NZ Biosecurity Awards

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has announced the opening of nominations for New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, to celebrate the people who help to keep New Zealand’s flora, fauna and vital primary sectors.

His remarks can be viewed and heard HERE. 

The awards were launched last year with six categories.  Three new categories have been added this year – Emerging Leader, Innovation and Science awards.

Entrants might be innovators, scientists, communities, or leaders – anyone who has taken an active interest in the continuous improvement of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, Mr O’Connor said.

“The awards are a way to thank and shine a light on people and organisations who are protecting Aotearoa – in our communities, businesses, science organisations, iwi and hapū, and central and local government.

“Biosecurity is our number one challenge because it is critical to our economic base and way of life. Recent reports show that only 2 per cent of Kiwis feel a biosecurity breach would affect their lives – I think this level of awareness is changing and there’s a growing understanding that every New Zealander has personal responsibility for ensuring we maintain a resilient and strong biosecurity system.”

Finalists will be announced on Friday 12 October and winners named on Monday 12 November at an awards dinner in Auckland.

Entries are open until 31 August.

The award categories are:

  • New Zealand Biosecurity Community Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Industry Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Emerging Leader Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Local and Central Government Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Innovation Award
  • Minister’s Biosecurity Award

You can find out more HERE.

Source:  Minister of Biosecurity

At-risk imported apple and stonefruit material to be contained or destroyed

At-risk apple and stonefruit plant material imported from a United States testing facility must be appropriately contained or destroyed to protect New Zealand from biosecurity risk, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

This follows a ministry audit in March which found a number of significant failures at Clean Plant Centre Northwest in Washington State.

MPI has completed a thorough technical analysis on whether it is possible to retain rather than destroy the plant material.

“We have concluded industry can keep priority plant material as long as it’s properly contained while we determine if it can be tested for diseases so it may be released in the future,” says the director of plant and pathways, Pete Thomson.

“We have high expectations of the assurances provided by our overseas partners. These are an important part of keeping unwanted pests and diseases out of New Zealand.

“Our audit shows we can have little confidence in the testing carried out by Clean Plant Centre Northwest since June 2012. An investigation by US authorities has since confirmed our findings.

“As a result, MPI can’t be certain the affected plant material is free of pests and diseases of concern, and this is a biosecurity risk for New Zealand.”

The ministry has been working with nurseries, importers, growers and industry to get to a position where the value and significance of the plant material is recognised, but where biosecurity protection comes first.

“The steps we’re taking ensure risks are properly managed through containment and testing,” Mr Thompson said. “These measures provide the possibility that priority apple and stonefruit varieties may be released in the future if no pests or diseases are found.”

Nurseries and importers will be able to contain the affected apple plant material (around 21,000 plants and small trees) at existing sites under specific requirements. This will include access restrictions, no movement of plant material, and regular monitoring for any signs of disease.

MPI is confident that the testing recently carried out in New Zealand on some of the affected apple plant material confirms there are no major pests or diseases of concern. But further testing is required for lower-risk pests and diseases.

For affected stonefruit plant material (around 26,500 plants and small trees), the biosecurity risk and containment requirements are higher. Further testing is required to rule out pests or diseases of concern.

Nurseries and importers will be able to select a small number of cuttings and potted plants from stonefruit varieties to retain in the appropriate level of containment facility. Stonefruit plant material which cannot be contained will need to be destroyed.

Mr Thomson says it is for nurseries and importers to decide what plant varieties and how much plant material they wanted to retain, as they will be responsible for containment and testing costs.

“MPI will be supervising the containment process and also the steps required to properly destroy the plant material,” he says.

“It must be either contained or destroyed before the onset of spring. Currently, plants and pests are not as active and the risk of spreading potential pests and diseases is at a minimum.

The ministry will consider claims for the direct cost of lost plant material.

Almost 48,000 affected apple and stonefruit plants and small trees have been secured at 50 sites in the Hawke’s Bay, Waikato, Nelson and Central Otago. In total, 32 nurseries, importers, and growers are affected.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Trans-Tasman cooperation on biosecurity risk detection technology

Head of Biosecurity New Zealand, Roger Smith, and Deputy Secretary responsible for Australian biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, have met in Canberra to exchange letters of cooperation between the two countries on exploring emerging technologies to better manage biosecurity risk.

Detecting biosecurity risks at the border is becoming increasingly complex for both Australia and New Zealand, with more diverse risks, and volumes of passengers, mail and cargo also expected to rise significantly in coming years, Mr Smith said.

“Working together to explore emerging technologies, and innovative use of technologies, will be mutually beneficial and help both our countries anticipate and meet future challenges. This is a great initiative and the next step in an ongoing conversation.”

Ms O’Connell said the two countries had always worked closely together but the exchange of letters marked a commitment to collaboration in biosecurity risk detection and would result in the trialling of emerging detection technologies such as 3-dimensional X-ray scanners and automatic detection software.

“This technology could revolutionise biosecurity operations at the border, allowing better targeting of items of biosecurity risk.”

One initiative is to develop an extensive image library of target items to assist in the development of a series of algorithms that will auto-detect biosecurity risk items. This is just one of many areas where a stronger cooperative relationship between the agencies will yield a biosecurity outcome that is much greater than could be achieved independently.

This cooperation will involve a range of proof-of-concept trials, including new ways of processing passengers, baggage, mail, and cargo that will help our biosecurity officers make more informed decisions and to better manage the biosecurity risk at the border.

Other technologies with the potential for better detection of biosecurity risk items will be explored jointly as they emerge or as future biosecurity threats arise.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

MPI welcomes Crown appeal in Psa biosecurity case

A notice of appeal has been filed in the Court of Appeal against the High Court’s decision in the Psa litigation. The Crown appeal seeks to clarify the scope for government regulators to be sued in negligence.

A group of kiwifruit growers and post-harvest operators sued the Crown for what they allege is negligence in allowing the bacterial kiwifruit vine disease Psa-V into the country in 2010.

The Kiwifruit Claim group represents 212 growers.

PSA, a vine-killing disease, is estimated to have cost the industry close to $900m.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) does not accept the allegations and is defending the litigation.

The ministry notes that the High Court’s decision traverses events dating back 12 years, pre-dating the establishment of the ministry.

The ministry says it has confidence in the current biosecurity system and its continued robustness and says NZ enjoys a high level of freedom from the most damaging pests and diseases as a result of the diligent actions of MPI officers, importers and others.

In a statement issued today the ministry says:

“No biosecurity system in the world can prevent every pest incursion from happening, which is why our ability to manage risk offshore and respond to incursions if they occur are critical parts of the biosecurity system. A strong biosecurity system needs government, importers, industry and the public actively participating and acting to identify and manage risk.

“The ministry considers the High Court finding has the potential to significantly impact on the ministry’s biosecurity operations.  MPI takes its biosecurity responsibilities seriously, and while the decision is being appealed, it must still be applied in the interim. The impact of this for importers and others will be delays in decision-making.”

Because the matter will go before the Court of Appeal, it will be making no further comment.

More background on the case HERE.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries