MPI's role in biosecurity

Exotic pests like Queensland fruit fly and diseases like foot and mouth could threaten New Zealand – and we're ready to take action if they're detected here. Find out how we respond to potential threats.

Dealing with threats and incursions

We're always ready to respond to a pest or disease. In most cases, we're notified when someone calls the Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline (0800 80 99 66). We also run surveillance programmes to try to catch them early.

When we find a pest or disease we investigate it, assess the risk and then decide how best to respond.

That usually involves forming a response team to manage and monitor activities. MPI has guidelines and protocols in place so that response teams know what they have to do. Those guidelines and protocols are part of the Coordinated Incident Management System we use for responses.

Biosecurity response guide 

We've designed this guide to set out how biosecurity responses work and the roles that government, industry, service providers, community stakeholders, and other New Zealanders play.

New Zealand Government Biosecurity Response Guide [PDF, 2.6 MB]

Setting up a response

We set up a response team when a situation demands coordination across MPI or other government agencies or local councils.

For example, with the Wairarapa pea weevil response in 2016, we had to coordinate our actions to eradicate the pest. We coordinated:

  • field operations
  • intelligence
  • planning
  • logistics
  • liaison and public communications.

These activities are easier to manage within a response team structure. Teams include:

  • an incident controller
  • a response manager
  • function managers, who look after certain parts of the response.

Making decisions during a response

We make decisions according to an agreed decisions framework in a timely manner, taking into account the best available scientific data and other information. We also recognise that uncertainty should not delay action.

The GIA deed

MPI is the government's party to the Government Industry Agreement on Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA). Under the GIA deed, there is joint decision-making with member primary industry organisations as to whether a response is needed.

It's not just pests and diseases

Not all responses are related to biosecurity issues like pests and diseases. We might also form response teams if there is:

  • a significant food safety problem
  • a trade issue
  • an adverse event like a flood or drought.

Who we work with on responses

Who we work with on a response depends on the pest, disease or issue we're dealing with. 

With the 2016 discovery of pea weevils in the Wairarapa, we worked with local growers to put a 2-year ban on growing peas in place. We also worked with AsureQuality to manage permits for moving material.

In the event of a more serious threat, like foot-and-mouth disease, we would work with government agencies, farmers and industry to manage the outbreak.

Always fine-tuning our systems

We're always working to improve our response capabilities, including:

  • how we communicate
  • the data we have access to during a response
  • stakeholder and industry relationships
  • recovery operations.

In 2012 we led Exercise Taurus, a simulated biosecurity response to foot-and-mouth disease. This whole-of-government exercise allowed us to review how we respond and how we work with other agencies. We identified a number of areas for improvement, including the key features of a foot-and-mouth disease response.

By continuously improving how we respond, we can better manage a pest or disease outbreak in New Zealand.

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

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