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7 November 1997
One fact lost in the wake of the enormous media coverage following the illegal importation of the rabbit calicivirus has been MAF's increasing overall success guarding the health of our animals and plants against various ongoing imported threats.
Our success in biosecurity has other nations looking to New Zealand as the model of biosecurity enforcement. Detection capability reached new levels with the
purchase of the new Rapiscan X-ray machines. The machines, first installed at Auckland International Airport last November, represent the state-of-the-art, with sophisticated features for detection of biological risk goods.
There are now four X-ray machines at Auckland Airport, one each in the airports of Wellington and Christchurch and one at the Auckland Mail Centre. A leased machine is also being trialed at the Hamilton Airport.
Supplementing the X-ray machines is the Quarantine Detector Dog programme, recently reinforced with new beagle teams. Three teams are currently operating at Auckland
International Airport, with another five being trained before assignment to other airports and the Mail Centre.
The National Manager of MAF's Quarantine Service, Neil Hyde, says that with the expanded resources MAF Officers will soon be able to efficiently scan luggage of a significant proportion of the eight thousand-plus travellers arriving daily in New Zealand.
There were 13, 896 seizures of high risk goods at airports for the quarter ended 30 September this year. "We're currently averaging about 150 detections per day of goods that pose a high risk and require seizure, of which, on average, more than 50 are undeclared. Yet the average delay to each traveller who has their baggage X-rayed is just one minute four seconds," Mr Hyde said.
During the same three months, 4,441 seizures of fruit fly host material weighing 1,588 kilograms were made at New Zealand airports, he said. "There have been 27 actual fruit fly detections so far this year." (See chart below)
On top of the detection network, there is the MAF Quarantine Service Awareness Strategy, which includes multilingual in-flight videos shown to arriving air travellers, and a regular performance monitoring programme utilising predictive models.
Mr Hyde said the results seem to speak for themselves, and had earned the respect and envy of other nations. He said that recently, a high-ranking United States Department of Agriculture officer visiting New Zealand remarked, "You people are achieving levels f effectiveness and efficiency we haven't even dreamed about."
Enforcement beyond point-of-entry has been busy, as well. Recent investigations by the MAFRA Enforcement Unit have included the alleged illegal importation of bee pollen and difficulties with imported birds, trade in both of which expose our biosecurity to serious risk.
Incidents such as these, and the rabbit calicivirus, highlight the fact that, regardless of how effective border controls may be, determined individuals can still put our biosecurity status in jeopardy for their own personal gain.
Media inquiries to:
Neil Hyde, National Manager, MAF Quarantine Service (09) 377 3008
Debbie Gee, Manager, Corporate Communications, (04) 474 4258
High risk seizures at New Zealand international airports for the quarter ended 30/9 for the past three years
Fruit fly host material seizures
Overall passenger numbers increased by approx 15% in the period.