Biosecurity should be top priority for new Government

13 Oct 2017

Tamarixia triozae and TP psyllids 02

A biosecurity incursion can (and has) bring parts of the primary sector to a complete standstill; Psa did this to kiwifruit not too long ago. 

Today, the Ministry for Primary Industries are managing a number of incursions, including mycoplasma bovis, myrtle rust, pea weevil, and oyster parasite, to name but a few. For those facing incursions, incomes and jobs are being affected and, in many cases, their businesses cannot weather the storm; they go under. The cost of controlling and eradicating these incursions costs farmers, growers, industry, and the Government millions upon millions of dollars. Considering the critical importance of protecting New Zealand from biosecurity incursions, and being ready to quickly and effectively respond to these incursions, has to be one of the new Government’s top priorities.

Industry is also doing its share of the heavy lifting for biosecurity; Horticulture New Zealand recently expanded its expert biosecurity team, adding two new members. The horticulture industry, Plant and Food Research, and the Ministry for Primary Industries are preparing response plans for when and if brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) arrives in New Zealand. At present there is an industry / Government team in Chile investigating a BMSB incursion in there, learning and testing how effective our response in New Zealand would be.

Back in New Zealand, a biocontrol agent, Tamarixia trioaze, was released this week to control the tomato potato psyllid. This psyllid found its ways to New Zealand in 2006 and was not eradicated; to this day it causes enormous damage to potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums and tamarillos, and nearly destroyed our commercial tamarillo orchards. Tamarixia is a tiny wasp that lays its eggs on the psyllid, which then hatch and eat the psyllid. Deadly to the pest, but harmless to the rest of us; it doesn’t sting. 

The Vegetable and Research Innovation Board, on behalf of industry groups including Potatoes New Zealand, Tomatoes NZ, Vegetables New Zealand, the NZ Tamarillo Growers Association and Heinz-Wattie’s NZ Ltd., obtained and paid for the approval by the Environmental Protection Authority in June 2016 to safely release Tamarixia.  

Following that example, work is now being done on a similar biocontrol agent for BMSB.

Industry, Government, and all New Zealanders need to step up together and keep New Zealand free from the pests and diseases we don’t have. For example, New Zealand is the only country in the world that does not have mycoplasma bovis, so the current eradication efforts need to be fully effective to prevent it getting a foothold here. The previous Government released a compelling and proactive programme to do this, called Biosecurity 2025. 

The arrival of unwanted pests and diseases cost millions of dollars to combat, and costs people their livelihoods. On behalf of all farmers and growers, our plea is for biosecurity to remain a top priority for the new Government, for that Government to embrace and enhance the current Biosecurity 2025 programme, and for all of us to work to keep those unwanted pests and diseases out of New Zealand.

 

- Mike Chapman, CEO