Government gives biosecurity hospital pass

Friday 4 September 2009, 7:03AM
By Federated Farmers of New Zealand

Federated Farmers strongly opposes lumping biosecurity costs onto farmers as laid out in the Joint Decision Making and Cost Sharing Master Deed released by Government today.


“The Government has flip flopped around biosecurity for too long,” says John Hartnell, Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson.


“While Biosecurity New Zealand reduces its presence at the border through staff cuts, it wants industry groups to stump up with the cash to fund pest surveillance and eradication. This hardly sounds like a sound and fair biosecurity management plan.


“Forcing farmers to share the cost of a biosecurity incursion doesn’t bode well with the agricultural sector. It is the role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to lead and fund a biosecurity system that protects New Zealand’s people, environment and economy from risk organisms.


“Stinging farmers with any additional costs for the management of biosecurity is totally unacceptable considering we already pay a tax to ensure New Zealand is adequately protected. We have the army, navy and police so why is biosecurity suddenly industries’ problem and not a means of protecting New Zealanders and our country?


“By supporting a joint agreement, Government is ignoring the fact that farmers have little or no control over what happens at the border. Industry groups would be seen as the ambulance at the end of cliff, ready to clean up the mess after a Government failure.


“Take the outbreak of the Varroa mite in New Zealand. To date, this outbreak has cost the country more than $20million. Under a joint cost agreement, the bee industry would need to finance at least $10 million of that cost.


“Then there’s the foot and mouth outbreak at Waiheke Island, which cost more than $2million in costs not including compensation. Under a joint cost agreement, Government would not provide compensation as it would fall back on the industry groups.


“Biosecurity breaches have an immediate impact on the industry concerned, but ultimately the living standard of every single New Zealander would be put at risk. How would industry pay if the incursion was so devastating that its financial viability was lost?


“The Minister of Agriculture, the Hon David Carter, has been mislead if he believes this cost sharing arrangement will enable primary industries to have a better say in biosecurity. The reality is that industry already has more knowledge and is better equipped than the agency charged with the biosecurity of our country.


“A better option would have been to develop a Memorandum of Understanding or similar non-fiscal agreement between industry groups and Government on the reaction to a biosecurity incursion,” Mr Hartnell concluded.