Biosecurity Award finalists stepping up to protect New Zealand

The Biosecurity Award finalists announced today reflect the diversity and shared commitment of those working to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

Judging Panel Chair Dr John Hellstrom says the 25 finalists represent an impressively diverse range of individuals, teams, businesses, government agencies, research organisations, iwi, schools and community groups this year.

“They are often volunteers working in isolated places, with few resources, and trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. Working quietly with little visibility or recognition, they are often fuelled by a few small wins and many big challenges,” he says.   Continue reading

Unwelcome NZ fruit fly species is stopped at the border

Biosecurity New Zealand officers have stopped an unwanted fruit fly species from entering the country.

Officers detected spotted wing drosophila larvae in a single fruit from a consignment of oranges from the United States on April 8 during a routine inspection.

The fly is a serious pest that could harm a range of fruit crops in New Zealand.

“The interception shows our biosecurity controls are working well,” says Roger Smith, head of Biosecurity New Zealand.

“There is no suggestion the fly is in New Zealand.” Continue reading

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

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