Forest Health Surveillance Scheme - Revised

 Communication Regarding Revised Forest Health Surveillance System

The Forest Owners Association currently manages a Forest Health Surveillance Scheme that covers the forests owned or managed by the Association’s members. This scheme, which originated in the 1950’s, was last reviewed, by 2 international experts, in 2007. It currently entails a combination of:

  • Aerial inspections
  • Forest ‘drive throughs’
  • Ground plots
  • Surveillance of identified ‘high risk forest health’ sites

Each of these activities is carried out at prescribed intensities by qualified forest health personnel.

The system also comprises a diagnostic component, (provided by Scion), and a forest health database which is maintained by Scion.

The FOA system is complemented by an MPI managed ‘High Risk Site Surveillance’ system that was initiated more than 25 years ago. This concentrates on sites around air and sea ports, transitional facilities where sea containers are unloaded, first night campsites in indigenous forests, parks and miscellaneous other sites where exotic organisms are considered highly likely to enter and establish in the country. The system is intended to not only protect exotic forest plantations but also urban and indigenous forest environments and fruit crops.

When forest owners voted on the proposed commodity levy in 2013, they did so on the basis that some of the levy funds would be used to support an expanded national forest health surveillance scheme that would include all plantation forests. I.e., all plantation forests would be considered part of the sample population when considering risk. The voting paper also identified that the design for such a scheme would be decided by Forest Health Surveillance specialists.

Soon after the referendum was passed, the FOA initiated work on the design for such a system.

The objectives of the scheme were identified as being to:

  1. Protect the forest estate by early detection of new-to-NZ and new-to-region pest (insects and pathogens) incursions
  2. Protect trade from the potential negative impacts of the new incursions. (This includes being able to confidently establish Area Freedom or Pest-Free Place of Production status if required.)

It also had to both effective and efficient.

The explicit emphasis on protecting trade is new to the scheme. It has been added to ensure that, in the event of an incursion of a serious new pest or pathogen, export trade can continue from regions of the country, and places of production, where it can be demonstrated, under international protocols, the risk of spread from the incursion to overseas destinations is acceptably low. Additionally, it was recognized that it is highly desirable that international purchasers of New Zealand forest products have general confidence in New Zealand’s biosecurity system.

The team selected to carry out the review were from a variety of organisations: NZ Forest Owners Association, Scion, Ministry for Primary Industries, AgResearch, Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis and Bayesian Intelligence - as well as a range of disciplines.

The approach this team took was to use relatively sophisticated and quantitative techniques to assess where pests are likely to appear, and establishment is likely to occur, and integrated that with the costs of surveillance to design an effective system. The approach can be represented diagrammatically as follows:

fhss redesign web

"The review has reached the point where the new system is being rolled out on a pilot basis up to December 2016. Some low risk areas will receive less surveillance, while some higher risk areas will be more intensively surveyed. The pilot roll out will provide better estimates of effort and costs and the system will be contracted for full implementation at 1 January 2017 and it will continue to be complemented by MPI's High Risk Site Surveillance system.

The revised scheme will have varying implications for different forest growers/managers.

First and foremost, all growers/managers should have increased confidence that the probability of detecting new biological incursions of consequence quickly will be enhanced. Subsequent chances of eradication and trade protection will thus be increased.

FOA members who have been part of the previous scheme may find that not all of their forests are being surveyed, or are not being surveyed either as intensively and/or regularly. On the other hand, some of their forests may be surveyed more intensively and/or regularly. The reports on forest health status previously received may be discontinued unless supplementary arrangements are made with the surveillance contractors. Similarly, where agreements covering various joint ventures, (for example, forestry rights, leases and management contracts), stipulate requirements for regular forest health inspections or surveillance, and these forests are no longer surveyed as part of the scheme, alternative arrangements to meet these obligations may have to be made by the forest managers responsible for them.

Some non FOA members will be contacted for permission to access their forests for forest health surveillance purposes for the first time.

More details of the scheme will be provided when they are available.