11 Jul 2013

Scientist says NZ has gone soft on biosecurity

8:58 pm on 11 July 2013

An agricultural scientist says New Zealand has gone soft on biosecurity with potentially catastrophic results for the economy.

The former president of the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, John Lancashire, says cuts to government departments and a focus on free trade and tourism are contributing to the problem.

Mr Lancashire told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Thursday that personnel cuts at the borders mean the checks are not as rigourous as they once were.

He said the Government must put in more resources, otherwise it risks potential catastrophes like a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Mr Lancashire said the outbreak of PSA in kiwifruit vines and the varroa bee mite are examples of how standards are slipping.

But the Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy told the institute's biosecurity forum on Thursday the Government remains fully committed to biosecurity.

Mr Guy admitted the total number of staff at the border has decreased, but it has not been slashed.

He said the decrease was in response to the global financial crisis which reduced trade flows, but now that trade is picking up again the ministry are in the process of hiring more staff.