[Sitting date: 10 May 2012. Volume:679;Page:2171. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman) to the
Minister for Primary Industries: Does he have confidence in Biosecurity New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Primary Industries)
: Yes, I do have confidence in the Ministry for Primary Industries and its ability to manage New Zealand’s biosecurity. Systems are working, and, as an example, this afternoon the ministry is responding to a potentially serious biosecurity issue in Auckland. The ministry has initiated an immediate response to the find of a single Queensland fruit fly, which has been trapped in Mount Roskill.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How many front-line border staff have been cut since 2008, and what further cuts will occur under the proposed border security changes outlined in his 7 February Cabinet paper, including the proposal to make passenger checking less visible?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Reductions in front-line staff started in 2007. More recently the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Fisheries, and the Food Safety Authority have gone through a very significant merger, and during that time some vacancies have not been filled. Those numbers will be adjusted according to volume flows of both passengers at airports and goods coming into New Zealand at the ports.
Hon David Cunliffe: What’s he hiding?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Absolutely nothing.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How can he possibly make biosecurity checks at Wellington Airport less visible, given that there has not been a sniffer dog there since October of last year?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Sniffer dogs are but one aspect of biosecurity protection. I am aware that at Wellington Airport, though the dogs were available, two dog handlers resigned in quick succession. A recruitment process is currently under way.
Shane Ardern: How will the Ministry for Primary Industries respond to the find of a Queensland fruit fly in Auckland?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The response is, firstly, to minimise any adverse trade reaction, and that is why the Ministry for Primary Industries is starting now to notify our relevant trading partners. Secondly, we need to quickly find whether this trapping is dealing with a single insect or whether a breeding population has been established, in which case an eradication response would be commenced immediately. Thirdly, the Ministry for Primary Industries has already initiated consultation and transparent communication with relevant key stakeholders.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Has he read the MAF Biosecurity New Zealand website’s report on the Queensland fruit fly, which it claims is the world’s worst fruit pest, and does he agree that “An incursion in key fruit-growing regions is likely to have a significant effect on the New Zealand economy with potential job losses and eradication costing millions.”; if so, does he agree that the cost of retaining a few dozen biosecurity staff pales in comparison with the huge potential effects of this potential incursion?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I am certainly aware of the very serious nature of this find in Mount Roskill. It is fair to work out that these trappings occur quite regularly—and finds at the border of fruit fly eggs, larvae, and insects. In fact, in 2007 there were 16 such finds, in 2008-09 there were 10 such finds, in 2009-10 there were nine such finds, and last year there four such finds. The important thing, having made this find, is how we react to it. Although it is a potentially serious issue, I do not think we should overreact if we are dealing with a single trapping. It is a very good example to Mr O’Connor and to the Labour Party of our biosecurity system working.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does this Minister consider it a failure of the biosecurity protection, and will he inform his colleague the Minister of Tourism that his so-called SmartGate system, which allows tens of thousands of visitors from Queensland and Australia to walk straight into this country without a check, might not be so smart, and, in fact, may be the most disastrous initiative of a failing National Government?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I have already spoken to the Minister of Tourism, the Prime Minister, about this incident. But, as I point out to the member, the fact that this insect has been trapped and found in Mount Roskill is the way the biosecurity system is meant to work.
Steffan Browning: Why does the Minister not intervene to stop the importation of raw pig meat infected by porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, given the potentially devastating impact on our rural economy?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I am not aware of any imports of meat infected by the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome that have arrived in New Zealand.
Steffan Browning: Given that the High Court has just allowed the Minister’s previous permissions for meat infected by the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome to come in, when will the Minister learn the lessons from
pv.Actinidiae and the varroa mite, and stop putting our economy and the livelihood of our farming families at risk?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Before any product is allowed to be imported into New Zealand, an import health standard is rigorously developed by the Ministry for Primary Industries. The final decision is not mine as Minister; it is one for the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries to make. In this case New Zealand cannot continue to argue for freer trade access around the rest of the world if it is then going to impose unreasonable constraints on the import of products into New Zealand.
Steffan Browning: I seek leave to table this document, which shows the weight limit—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before the member says what the document shows, we must know the source of the document.
Steffan Browning: MAF Biosecurity New Zealand, 17 March 2009. It shows that the weight limit—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this off its website? Is this off the MAF Biosecurity website?
Steffan Browning: Not that I am aware of, but—
Mr SPEAKER: OK, I invite the member to carry on.
Steffan Browning: It shows that the weight limit for imported pork, for potentially infected pork, is “somewhat arbitrary”.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Steffan Browning: I would like to seek permission to table this document, which is an advertisement placed by New Zealand pig farmers in the
New Zealand Farmers Weekly, which—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It has been in a publication regularly seen by members. We do not table advertisements from—
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table from the Australian agriculture department a brief on the Queensland fruit fly, which is “the world’s worst fruit pest”, to show that this incursion is—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need a further speech. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table Cooke QC’s recent opening submission in a recent injunction case on the issue of the introduction of raw porcine meat, which debunks the Minister’s assurances.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table—what was the document again?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Cooke QC’s opening submission in a recent injunction case in the court.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.