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Government demonstrates further commitment to biosecurity

The Labour-Progressive Government was committed to a programme of constant improvement in biosecurity, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

He said Cabinet had approved extra government funding of just over $3.5 million this financial year to begin to begin the process of implementing the biosecurity strategy across the whole of government.

The funding was announced today, along with the publication of the Biosecurity Strategy which outlines the objectives and targets for New Zealand's biosecurity programmes into the future.

Mr Sutton said the implementation of the new Import Health Standard for Sea Containers was identified in the strategy as a high priority.

"In 2001, the Labour-led Government implemented a $200 instant fine for biosecurity breaches found at airports something that previous Governments had been too scared to do. We also put in the extra money for soft-tissue x-ray machines and detector dog teams to make sure screening of air passengers and crew was 100 per cent.

"As a result, biosecurity baseline funding has increased steadily each year since we became government in 1999. The Auditor-General quite clearly says in a recent report that this Government is spending more than $50 million a year more than the previous government on baseline border security funding. This will continue."

Mr Sutton said the Labour Government had also invested funding in the Biosecurity Council, enabling it to produce the strategy published today.

He said it has been clear for some time that sea containers was the most vulnerable point in our biosecurity system.

"We have been working with officials and industry to come up with the best way to close that gap. It is an important area that hasn't been tackled by previous governments, so we needed to make sure we got it right."

The implementation of the sea container screening will be in stages to take account of the large number of containers (450,000), transitional facilities (up to 10,000) and accredited persons (up to 15,000) that will be affected by the new standard. The first ports to be involved will be Auckland and Tauranga, where almost two-thirds of New Zealand's imports come through.

The standard's primary aim is to keep biosecurity risks off shore by requiring exporters and importers to provide more accurate information relating to the container, packaging and cargo. All imported containers must be certified that they have been internally and externally inspected.

The standard also specifies the biosecurity requirements once the vessel has arrived, when the containers are unloaded at the wharf, and subsequent unpacking at transitional facilities. Non-MAF personnel will be able to check containers after they have passed a MAF-accredited training process and MAF officers will continue to inspect all high risk containers. Every container will be required to be unpacked at an approved facility with a MAF approved person present.

A detailed electronic manifest information system to track non compliance with the standard and to allow targeting of high risk containers will be developed later in the year as part of the programme.

The new system is likely to be funded by clearance fees.

The new import health standard was developed after a major review of biosecurity risks in the sea container pathway and submissions on the draft standard.

A copy of the standard and online transitional facility registration is available at http://www.maf.govt.nz/biosecurity/border/papers/sea-container-review/index.htm

A copy of the Biosecurity Strategy is available at: www.biostrategy.govt.nz




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