Monoculture, dairy conversions among updated biosecurity threats

The Biosecurity 2025 strategy aims to future-proof the nation's biosecurity systems.

The government's proposal to update the nation's 2003 biosecurity strategy identifies the reliance of the primary sector on a small number of monocultures and large-scale changes in land use such as dairy conversions among 12 strategic threats.

The Biosecurity 2025 strategy aims to future-proof the nation's biosecurity systems, updating the original 2003 strategy to ensure it stays ahead of the "threats and pressures because of our growing international trade, greater mobility of people and increasingly complex global supply chains," according to the discussion paper.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says the 10-year plan envisages greater public engagement on biosecurity. Its five key areas of focus include: "A biosecurity team of 4.7 Million - every New Zealander and every New Zealand business". And the strategy includes four "biosecurity champions" - Graeme Marshall, chair of the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee; Bruce Wills, former Federated Farmers president; TV personality Ruud "bug man" Kleinpaste; and biosecurity scientist Anna Probert.

""We want industry, stakeholders, and the wider public to have their say now on guiding principles and strategic directions for the biosecurity system, as well as proposed first steps," Guy said in a statement.

As part of the review, the Ministry for Primary Industries has been charged with preparing a Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement, including a mission statement and guiding principles.

The 12 strategic threats to biosecurity come from across the border and at home, and include a primary sector that's "highly reliant on a relatively small number of monocultures." While there are some biosecurity benefits of monocultures, "there are also considerable risks associated with low genetic diversity," the report says.

Land-use changes, including the rapid conversions to dairy farming over the last five years, "has significant implications for biosecurity risk", including changes to the risk profiles of pests and diseases specific to those new uses. New Zealand producers may also face greater market pressure to stop using current chemical and non-chemical pest and disease treatments because of health, animal welfare and environmental concerns.

Growth in online shopping offshore and increased passenger arrivals from new markets are also listed as key threats. Ports may struggle to cope with increased volumes of containers, and the "changing quantity, origin, type and movement of vessels may impact border resourcing and marine biosecurity risk management", it says. Trade volumes will likely increase, along with changes in the types of goods entering the country and new countries of origin.

Between 2003 and 2014, mail parcel volumes have climbed 216 percent, sea containers are up 37 percent and air passenger numbers have jumped 47 percent, the report says.

The report envisions increased spread of pests and diseases globally, including to current and future trading partners. The world will also face increasing demand for secure food supplies as food and water become increasingly scarce. Climate change rounds out the 12 strategic threats, with the likely result being changes in the distribution of some pests and diseases, which will change the viability of primary industries.

Four specific offshore threats identified are the Southern saltmarsh mosquito, an Australian native that can carry the Ross River Virus and poses a $120 million threat if it establishes in New Zealand; Myrtle rust, which would attack pōhutukawa, rātā, and mānuka, and have an economic impact on eucalyptus forestry, feijoa orchards, mānuka honey production and nurseries; foot and mouth disease, which has been estimated to pose a potential $16 billion threat to the country; and bovine tuberculosis, which is already established but which is steadily being eradicated.

"As the rate and range of biosecurity threats and new technological opportunities to meet them continue to grow, it is time for a fresh look at how best to respond," the project's peer reviewers, John Hellstrom, Mick Clout, and Glenice Paine, say in their introduction. "Biosecurity cannot be delegated, nor can it be left as the sole responsibility of government."

Submissions must be lodged by 5pm on Sept. 9.

(BusinessDesk)

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