Final round of Biosecurity Strategy consultation begins

BIOSECURITY COUNCIL MEDIA RELEASE

16 December 2002

The draft Biosecurity Strategy for New Zealand released today will lead to a new blueprint for the way biosecurity is managed in the future, said Biosecurity Council chair John Hellström.

The Biosecurity Strategy draft follows extensive nationwide consultation on last year's Biosecurity Strategy Issues Paper. Proposals in the draft were prepared on behalf of the Biosecurity Council and are not Government policy.

"New Zealanders have high expectations for the performance of our biosecurity system. The draft strategy has built on the recommendations of several recent reviews of parts of biosecurity systems and provides a way forward for the whole system," said Dr Hellström.

"We now have six months to finalise this work so that we can draw all these themes into a common agreement on goals, objectives and measurable targets. By July 2003 I expect an approved Strategy will usher in a new era for biosecurity, with much greater potential for the lead agencies to lift their overall performance".

Published under the title of Guarding Pacific's Triple Star at www.biostrategy.govt.nz , the draft will be available for feedback from Monday 16 December until 28 February 2003. Print copies will be available in Public Libraries throughout New Zealand and mailed to everyone who has made submissions to the strategy development team.

Proposed changes in the draft strategy include strengthening the support structure around two primary lead agencies: the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Ministry of Fisheries. The Biosecurity Council would be reconstituted as a ministerial advisory forum, a new science advisory panel would be established and MAF Biosecurity would gain an advisory board.

Nine of the 23 recommendations being made are about leadership and participation, 10 are about decision-making and priorities, three are about capability and funding, and one focuses on the concept of Tiakina Aotearoa and acting responsibly under the Treaty of Waitangi.

"Only recently have New Zealanders started to appreciate the seriousness of biosecurity to our economy, our natural environment and even our way of life. This strategy is about having a clear and consistent whole-of-government approach to addressing all of the biosecurity threats to our economy, our environment and our public health," said Dr Hellström.

"The essential focus of the proposed changes is to augment and streamline the structures we already have in place to better integrate biosecurity actions carried out by a number of agencies. The draft strategy takes a light-handed approach to restructuring, focusing much more on the need for clear, transparent and consistent processes for making decisions and setting priorities which take into account all of the possible impacts of new pests. It also proposes formalising a much clearer and more complete set of accountabilities.

"There is no debate that the job of protecting New Zealand from pests and diseases needs to be more focused, effective and better understood. By adopting achievable strategic steps we can make that happen, build confidence in our biosecurity system and involve the public more in dealing with biosecurity issues," said Dr Hellström.

 The Biosecurity Council is the chief advisory body to the Minister for Biosecurity. Dr Hellström is the independent chair of the Council. To arrange an interview with Dr Hellström contact Mary Burnett, (04) 498 9853. For more information on the Biosecurity Council see www.maf.govt.nz/biocouncil.

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