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11 October 2005
Jetboating New Zealand has agreed to exclude all rivers known to be affected
with Didymo from the World Jetboat Marathon and complete intensive cleaning of
boats between rivers, allowing the event to proceed, Biosecurity New Zealand
announced this afternoon.
The change in itinerary means the Oreti and upper Clutha Rivers will be
dropped from the race schedule.
The race organisers have agreed to clean the jet boats before moving from
river to river. A jetboat-specific set of cleaning requirements, drawn up with
input from jetboat manufacturers and users, with BNZ risk analysis, will be
provided. Otago Regional Council staff will be at the event to make sure that
appropriate cleaning of the boats, trailers and other equipment is carried out.
Biosecurity New Zealand's Post-Clearance Director Peter Thomson says.
The decision to allow the event to go ahead follows months of dialogue with
the event organisers, and Environment Southland and Otago Regional Council staff
to mitigate the risks of spread, and calls to cancel it altogether.
"We have to treat this event on the same footing as other river users, and we
recognise the importance of the event."
"We've had significant discussions with the organisers, and they've submitted
a proposal including itinerary changes and enhanced cleaning. Today Biosecurity
New Zealand risk analysts, working with jetboat manufacturers, have completed
detailed cleaning procedures that sufficiently address the risks. With these
cleaning procedures being used, jetboating, whether in the marathon event or
other recreational use should pose no more risk than any other river activity.
"This isn't a dinghy race, this is a world-class professional jetboat event
that will do much for sport in New Zealand, and the economies of Otago and
Southland. The reality of managing Didymo is that we can now demonstrate we can
still host these world class events and manage the risks, otherwise New Zealand
will be the loser.
"Biosecurity New Zealand accepts that any decision on this event will be
unpopular in some quarters. However, we are satisfied the approach being taken
more than adequately addresses the risks," he said.
"Personal responsibility has always been, and will continue to be, our best
weapon to combat the spread of Didymo. If the debate about this event adds to
public awareness, then that's great.
"We've taken a fair amount of criticism, but we accept we have to subject to
scrutiny. However, BNZ has to be mindful of the bigger picture. We take the best
advice we can get from experts in the field."
Peter Thomson said some commentators seemed keen to imply that BNZ had failed
to contain Didymo.
"The facts are that our advice right from the start of this incursion was
that it was likely that Didymo had already spread. Credible evidence since then
suggests Didymo has been here several years before it was reported. Efforts to
find it, despite several suspect samples, found nothing other than in the
initial two Southland rivers until the Buller River sample at the end of last
"No connection, other than the organism being Didymo, can be made between any
of the subsequent findings. It is entirely possible that the Buller
contamination predates the Southland one, and has only shown up now because
local conditions are suitable for it to bloom."
Mr Thomson said there were other facts that needed to be forefront on the
"Didymo is an organism new to the Southern Hemisphere. No country has ever
successfully contained or eradicated it. From the outset, BNZ was hamstrung by
the lack of science available. The work that has been done has made New Zealand
the world authority. Suggestions that we've been sitting doing nothing are
totally uninformed. BNZ is continuing work on potential management options. If
anyone has any constructive ideas, short of nuking rivers, we're open to
suggestions," he said.
"The focus now is on developing long-term control options and ensuring every
New Zealander knows how to reduce the risk of spread. We have requested
proposals from research organisations to develop control methods that could be
implemented within river systems. These include chemical, biological and
mechanical options. If successful, these methods could be used to reduce the
impacts of Didymo."
Biosecurity New Zealand's own environmental trials will proceed this summer
Media contact: Phil Barclay Senior Communications Adviser Biosecurity New
Zealand 027 229 9145