28 Mar 2011

Export sector alarmed at biosecurity levy

1:14 pm on 28 March 2011

Exporters are describing a proposed biosecurity levy as unfair and say it could financially cripple some sectors.

The levy is contained in new legislation and would share the cost of any biosecurity incursion between the Government and the relevant sector.

The Biosecurity Law Reform Bill is being considered by Parliament's Primary Production select committee.

The Government says it wants to strengthen New Zealand's ability to deal with diseases or pests which get past the border.

Part of that is a cost-sharing levy, but exporters say in some circumstances they could end up having to pay 90% of the bill.

Federated Farmers says exporters do not bring biosecurity hazards into the country and the levy is extremely unfair.

The Beekeepers Association says there is no way it could cope with bills potentially amounting to millions of dollars.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter says the proposed levy would ensure funds are available to cope with diseases or pests when they happen.

Mr Carter says importers already pay large amounts for the clearance of containers but bugs, including the varroa mite, may still enter the country.

The minister rejects claims that pests are getting into the country because the Government has cut biosecurity staff numbers.

Staff levels were adjusted to meet the amount of trade that was coming through the border, he says.