Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Zealand Biosecurity

As a member of the national executive of the New Zealand Biosecurty Institute I had a meeting with the executive on Tuesday. Much was discussed, including the core focus of the members of the institute, namely the preservation of New Zealand's unique flora, fauna and habitats. These unique natural aspects of New Zealand's biodiversity are constantly at risk from pests and diseases being brought in from overseas. The recent discovery of a bacterial infection (PSA) on kiwi fruit vines across the country has highlighted the vulnerability of industry as well as natural ecosystems to organisms imported accidentally.

An incident today at work also shows how easily pests can be brought into the country. A container arrived at Kiwicare which had recently been offloaded from a ship in Lyttelton harbour having come from China through Hong Kong. Our ever vigilant store man and manager of our transitional facility (John Forrest) recognised signs of spider webbing and nests on the exterior of the container and immediately quarantined it before calling MAF Biosecurity New Zealand. MAF asked what was in the container and John had to explain that it was full of (irony of ironies) insecticide products.

John quckly sprayed the offending webbing nests with a dual action insecticide approved for the purpose to prevent any insects or spiders hopping off before MAF arrive.

The container has of course already been driven from Lyttelton through the Lyttelton tunnel and through a section of Christchurch. It is not inconceivable that anything on the container could have fallen off before getting here.

Within a couple of hours a MAF representative arrived to check the container and deal with any threats that it might pose.

The incident several things; firstly how vigilance and rapid reaction can reduce the risk of pest being imported and secondly how difficult a job protecting our unique natural environment and primary industry is. Many container are checked and treated with fumigants such as methyl bromide before being released from ports but insects and spiders, seeds and diseases can be on the exterior of containers as well.

Join us in the NZBI and learn how you can help prevent pests and diseases reaching New Zealand and deal with them if they gain entry. Membership is as little as NZ$30 per year.

A Red Imported Fire Ant walks into a bar in Auckland. The bartender says "How did you get in?"
"Oh. It was easy. I hitched a lift on an Acacia mearnsii."

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