14 Dec 2013

Govt and primary sectors to form formal biosecurity partnerships

5:13 pm on 14 December 2013

Formal biosecurity partnerships between the Government and primary sectors will soon be formed.

The Cabinet confirmed Government Industry Agreements on Thursday allowing the Ministry for Primary Industries to start signing deeds with industry bodies.

Nathan Guy.

Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ

Under the agreements, 80% of the cost for responding to an incursion will be split between the Ministry for Primary Industries and businesses in the primary sector, on a case by case basis.

The Government will pick up the rest of the bill for the response to a biosecurity breach.

A deed would allow the ministry and an agricultural industry, dairy for example, to work together on biosecurity and plan for incursions and response plans.

The industry would gain influence on biosecurity but share some of the costs.

Minister Nathan Guy says he knows a lot of industry groups are keen to sign up.

He says biosecurity incursions are a big risk for New Zealand as a food producing nation, so the Government must make sure it's focused on that and Mr Guy says it's his number one priority.

He says industry realises that as well so it wants to partner with Government.

Mr Guy says while the Government Industry Agreements is voluntary the Government might move to cost recovery in the future.

It's expected the first operational agreements and deeds will be signed next year.

Labour Party primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor believes having Government and industry working more closely together is a sound idea, but he thinks it may be too expensive for small sectors like tamarillo growers to sign up to.

He also predicts problems down the line as industries try to influence what's coming over the border.

Industry support for GIAs

New Zealand Pork thinks the Government's biosecurity partnerships proposal is a positive plan compared with the way things have been done.

And it will be asking pig farmers for a mandate to sign a Government Industry Agreement.

The pork industry is still awating the Supreme Court's decision on the ministry's decision to allow some fresh pork imports, which the industry says would increase the risk of the serious pig disease PRRS, arriving here.

Chief executive Owen Symmans says if Government Industry Agreements had been in place earlier, it might have been able to avoid the lengthy legal battle with MAF and now MPI.

Mr Symmans says New Zealand Pork will be seeking approval from pig farmers early in the new year to sign a biosecurity agreement.

Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine also says the GIAs are a step in the right direction in terms of improving biosecurity.

Horticulture New Zealand has been involved in developing the GIAs and Mr Raine says it hasn't been easy.

He believes bigger sectors, like kiwifruit, will sign up first.