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13 June 2002
A detailed assessment of the biosecurity risk to New Zealand posed by
exotic spiders entering on imported table grapes has been completed
and its associated documents were released for public submission
today, with submissions required by 24 July 2002.
Trade in table grapes from California was suspended in November 2001
following the post-border detection of four live black widow spiders
and a number of other exotic spiders over a three month
A special biosecurity project team was convened to produce the
assessment, consisting of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture
and Forestry (MAF), Department of Conservation (DOC) and Ministry of
Health (MoH). The process was led by MAF's Indigenous Flora and
Project spokesperson Christine Reed of MAF, said the risk assessment
consists of three separate documents covering: environmental risk of
entry and establishment of exotic spider species including black widow
spiders; potential health impacts and, recommended measures to reduce
the risk to achieve an acceptable level of protection.
"The inter-agency approach we have followed has allowed us to
bring a broad level of technical expertise to what is a complex
biosecurity issue, to ensure a result that sets a robust and rigorous
baseline for us to operate from in the future," said Ms
"Put simply we began from the basis that any trade involves
accepting some risk and achieving zero risk isn't realistically
practical. The agencies then worked towards deciding likely levels of
risk for a variety of situations. Because we are assessing the risk
from the different perspectives (to the environment and to human
health), we then need to weigh up all available information to ensure
the assessment is fair and balanced.
"While the project team have thoroughly examined the potential
options for risk mitigation at a level appropriate for the level of
risk there will be quite possibly still low numbers of post border
detections of exotic spiders associated with table grapes. Post-border
risk reduction measures have been recommended however to further
reduce the public health risk of these spiders.
"It is also part of our role to raise awareness and understanding
of biosecurity issues and to increase our level of preparation for the
contingency that new species, including exotic spiders, will be found
in New Zealand from time to time.
"This assessment illustrates that biosecurity risks are not
limited to the potential impact of pests and diseases on our primary
sector industries - they include risks to public health and to New
Zealand's unique indigenous flora and fauna." she said.
For further information contact:
Christine Reed, MAF Biosecurity Coordination Group
(04) 470 2576
Philippa White, Communications Adviser, MAF Biosecurity
(04) 498 9948 or 025 223 1875
Internet links to the three risk assessment documents are located at: