Illegal seed importer fined

18 April 2008

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is pleased with the conviction handed down today in the Tauranga District Court to a Katikati company for the illegal importation of sowing seeds.

King Seeds (New Zealand) Limited and company director Gerard Martin, were convicted for violating the Biosecurity Act 1993. They were fined $26 000 and ordered to pay $600 for solicitors fees and $520 for court costs.

Mr Martin had obtained gourmet cucumber seeds (known commonly as Mexican sour gherkins) from overseas and had gone to some trouble to bypass the border biosecurity screening programmes.

When interviewed, the defendant admitted he knew that bringing plant matter into New Zealand without authority was an offence and that this particular species of seed would not have been a permitted import. He had suggested the supplier falsify the seed description to increase the chance of them entering the country undetected, to be distributed and sold by King Seeds Ltd.

MAF Investigations Manager Greg Reid said he was pleased with the outcome of the case as it sent a clear message about how seriously New Zealand takes biosecurity.

"The defendant's deliberate attempt to import and sell these seeds under a false name increased New Zealand's exposure to potential disease and created the possibility of introducing what is recognised internationally as an invasive weed that could impact on our native flora and fauna.

"It is frustrating responding to incidents where people selfishly put the wellbeing of our country at risk. Some may think its just a few seeds, and that the growth of the plant would be controlled and managed but that's probably what was said about gorse and untold other introduced pests that we are now spending vast amounts of money on trying to control."

"If we are going to protect this country's unique biodiversity we must all be vigilant about preventing unwelcome imports that may carry a risk of introducing a pest or disease into the country."

Only seeds listed in the MAF Biosecurity Index are permitted entry into New Zealand. If a species is not present in this index, it is considered not to be present in New Zealand and is not permitted entry.

ENDS

Media Contact:

Greg Reid, Investigations Manager | MAF Biosecurity New Zealand | Phone: 029-909 3544

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