24 Feb 2010

Fruitgrowers want full-time sniffer dog at Rotorua airport

2:04 pm on 24 February 2010

Fruitgrowers in the Bay of Plenty are worried that biosecurity screening measures at Rotorua Airport are not rigorous enough and they say the airport should not have been upgraded to international status.

Until recently Rotorua Airport has been a domestic airport, but since December last year about four flights a week have arrived from Australia.

The Katikati Fruitgrowers Association says because the number of international flights are so few the airport cannot justify having Biosecurity New Zealand staff stationed there all the time, although staff are brought in to do the job from Tauranga.

Incoming passengers have their luggage X-rayed and are assessed by biosecurity officers.

The Association's president Hugh Moore says as the airport is in an important fruit-growing area, it should have its own trained sniffer dog to detect whether passengers are bringing in undeclared fruit which may be carrying pests and diseases.

Mr Moore says fruitgrowers have offered to front up with the costs of training a sniffer dog so it can be stationed at the airport permanently, however Biosecurity New Zealand director of cargo Steve Stuart says this wouldn't be practical.

Mr Stuart says there would not be enough work for the dog in Rotorua and would need to be co-ordinated with other operations to ensure it was working at its best and was fully utilised.