Travelling overseas? Simple steps to protect your industry

1 December 2019

By Brad Siebert and Anna Rathé

If you are travelling overseas over the holiday period (or any time of the year) there are a few key steps you can take to help protect New Zealand’s horticulture sector from biosecurity threats.

 New Zealand’s geographical remoteness means we are free from a range of damaging pests and diseases that other countries have to manage. Threats to New Zealand’s primary industries expand beyond the pests that are already known to be a problem in other countries.

Many pests and pathogens behave differently when introduced to a new environment due to new host availability, a different climate or a lack of natural predators which would usually keep their populations in balance. For example, introduced possums are a pest in New Zealand but do not cause widespread damage in Australia and the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug only became a global concern once it found its way into the US from Asia. Dry spores or soil borne pathogens can remain infective for long periods within soil (sometimes years), on footwear, or attached to clothing. International travellers can therefore unconsciously, and very easily, introduce extremely damaging threats to our sector.

New Zealand has a very active border biosecurity programme to help visitors understand what could present a risk to our primary industries and intervene where necessary to prevent the inadvertent introduction of pests into New Zealand. To help our biosecurity authorities move travellers through the airport as fast as possible while effectively managing biosecurity risk, traveller honesty and cooperation is paramount. Our biggest industry threats like fruit fly or new fungal pests can make it through the border as larvae within fruit or on unclean footwear, which is why there is such a focus by quarantine officers on ensuring no food or items that could have plant material or soil associated with them have been forgotten in your luggage. The risk assessments (verbal and passenger arrival cards) that you experience are one part of a robust border biosecurity process and are in place to help protect New Zealand’s primary industries and our environment.

No grower wants to present undue risk to their business from their international travel. Growers and those involved with on-orchard operations returning to New Zealand after an overseas trip should:

  • Before departing for New Zealand, clean all risk items (shoes and equipment) that may have come into contact with soil or plant material on offshore orchards and farms. Ideally use a sanitiser.
  • Declare any visits to an orchard or farm while overseas.
  • Answer all questions honestly, even if it means a short delay getting through border clearance.
  • Declare or dispose of any risk goods like food/fruit

HortNZ and other industry bodies are committed to working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to ensure biosecurity risk is managed. For those travelling, we’d like to thank you in advance for your patience as you go through this process at the airport and for your time in ensuring you take the above precautions before departing for New Zealand.