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Forest owners welcome biosecurity deed

12 December 2013

Cabinet approval of the deed that will govern how the government and primary industries respond to biosecurity threats has been welcomed by forest owners.

"The biological industries need secure borders, effective monitoring for possible incursions and a rapid response if an exotic pest arrives here. It is essential that we all know who does what and who picks up the tab," says Forest Owners Association biosecurity chair Dave Cormack.

"The forest industry, through the FOA, has partnered with government in forest biosecurity surveillance for more than 50 years and has funded its own scheme for the last 25 of those years. We look forward to formalising this relationship in a Government Industry Agreement.

"We've seen the enormous impact of PSA on the kiwifruit industry and clover root weevil on pasture, and we don't want a similar incursion in our industry."

He says he is encouraged that other sectors are starting to see the benefits of surveying for new pests and disease before they can become established. "In the case of forestry there is a need for better surveillance of forests, woodlots and amenity plantings that don't take part in the FOA scheme."

It will not be compulsory for primary industries to have GIAs, but those that do will share in decision-making. They will also pick up the tab for up to 50% of the costs of readiness (including surveillance and research) and the initial response to a pest incursion.

Mr Cormack says the idea of a GIA comes from Australia where government and industry share response decision-making and costs. On this side of the Tasman, the concept has been extended – with FOA encouragement – to include readiness, on the basis that early detection and preparedness have a huge bearing on whether an exotic pest can be cost-effectively controlled.

"The government has undertaken to fund at least 50% of control costs, but in the case of forestry we expect government and other sectors will normally be picking up a bigger share than this," Mr Cormack says.

"Most exotic insect pests are likely to attack a wide range of tree species, both native and exotic. And even if a pest or disease is specific to radiata, the social and environmental benefits of radiata plantings are significant. They are widely used for recreation, shelterbelts, sand dune stabilisation, water catchment protection, erosion control, carbon sequestration and so on."

He explains that the main reason why the taxpayer will pay for 50% or more of biosecurity costs is because most pest incursions are not the result of an action or failure by the industry put at risk. For example, an exotic insect threat to forests would be likely to be brought in by a tourist or by an importer, who would have no idea they'd played host to a hitchhiker with evil intent.

Issued by the FOA in response to Hon Nathan Guy's GIA Deed announcement. For more information, please contact Dave Cormack, Tel 021 222 9315