Surveillance programmes for pests and diseases
MPI is always looking for pests and diseases that might have arrived from overseas. Finding them early is vital for a successful response.
Why we do it
Routine surveillance ensures New Zealand is aware of which pests or diseases (organisms) are here and which are not. This knowledge serves 3 vital functions.
1. Assuring trade partners that New Zealand exports are safe.
Many countries require evidence that New Zealand's primary-sector goods will not carry pests or diseases to their shores. The best possible assurance we can give them is to prove those organisms don't live here – using rigorous and reliable science.
2. Responding to outbreaks.
Should a harmful pest or disease arrive in New Zealand, surveillance programmes give us early warning. By telling us what is here, and where it is, they allow us to mount a swift and coordinated response to eradicate or control an outbreak.
3. Understanding and controlling established pests and diseases.
When pests or diseases are established in New Zealand, we aim to understand them and, if possible, stop them from spreading around the country. Surveillance programmes tell us if harmful organisms are changing or moving, so we can manage the risks.
Our surveillance programmes also provide the data and expertise needed to conduct risk analyses and advise on import health standards. Those standards set out what can and can’t be imported into New Zealand.
How we do it
MPI's surveillance system brings together specialists in animal, marine, plant and environmental science, plus everyday New Zealanders, to detect pests and diseases. Our work includes:
- general surveillance to keep watch for any pest or disease, in any environment
- 13 targeted programmes focusing on specific pests, diseases and biosecurity risks.
Atlas of biosecurity surveillance
Our online interactive atlas explains more about the what, where, and why of our programmes.
A printable version is also available
Download the Atlas of biosecurity surveillance [PDF, 15 MB]
Note, this is a low resolution version. If you want a higher resolution version, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Calling on the eyes and ears of every New Zealander, general surveillance is the cornerstone of biosecurity within New Zealand.
- New Zealanders report about 10,000 suspected pests and diseases to MPI every year.
- About 750 reports lead to a formal investigation by our Investigation and Diagnostic Centre.
- MPI issues alerts to focus attention on high-priority biosecurity risks.
- Every commercially slaughtered animal is inspected for signs of disease.
- Getting farmers and vets to report conditions – like dropped hock syndrome
The science behind surveillance
When diagnostic testing is required, it usually takes place at one of our national laboratories:
- The Animal Health Laboratory in Wallaceville processes 37,000 diagnostic tests a year.
National Animal Health Laboratory
- The Plant Health and Environment Laboratories in Auckland and Christchurch identify 1,000 diseases and 6,000 bugs a year.
Plant Health & Environment Laboratory
MPI also collaborates with overseas labs and uses approved private labs in New Zealand.
MPI monitors vet laboratory submission data and reports from MPI's pest-and-disease hotline to identify trends in disease occurrence that may require further investigation. We also determine the cause of death for critically endangered native plants and animals.
Community-wide general surveillance systems like this are proven to give the best early warning of the:
- arrival of exotic pests or diseases
- mutation of established diseases into a more dangerous form.
MPI has 13 targeted programmes that focus on specific biosecurity risks. These include high-risk pests, high-risk locations, and vulnerable groups of plants and animals – on land or in water. Choose a topic box to reveal more information.
Watching New Zealand's animal populations.
The animal health programme allows New Zealand to:
- maintain disease-freedom statements, which give trade partners the confidence to accept our exports
- protect animals from potentially costly diseases like the 1952 outbreak of scrapie, which led to the destruction of several sheep flocks.
Although New Zealand is free from many animal diseases, we remain at risk. It's critical we maintain a vigilant animal surveillance programme, with world-class resources.
We gather data from the country's veterinary pathology labs to:
- support our disease-freedom statements
- help with the development of import health standards
- underpin risk analyses
- better understand established animal diseases
- support outbreak investigations
- identify trends in animal diseases.
Find out more
Watching for all non-native (exotic) ant species.
Ants harm agriculture, horticulture and native ecosystems. They also infest homes, destroy electrical wiring and machinery, and bite or sting humans and animals.
Exotic ants have been found in New Zealand on more than 350 occasions since the programme began in 2001.
About 50,000 baited food traps are laid at likely points of entry, such as airports, seaports and transitional facilities all around New Zealand. This has enabled rapid response to unwanted arrivals.
Find out more
Searching for signs of non-native pests or diseases in bees.
The Apiculture Surveillance Programme is helping protect New Zealand bees from non-native pests and diseases.
What we are looking for
We need to keep an eye out for any pests and diseases that can put our bees at risk.
Signs of non-native pests or diseases include:
- mites such as tracheal mite and Asian mite
- European foulbrood
- small hive beetle
- undesirable bee species
- unusual or unexplained symptoms, behaviour, or mortalities.
Watching for virus-transmitting midges (Culicoides) and the diseases they spread.
- Bluetongue virus
- Epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus
- Akabane disease virus.
Arboviruses cause diseases and illness in many animals, including sheep, goats, cattle and deer. An outbreak would expose New Zealand to trade restrictions.
Disease-spreading Culicoides aren't present in New Zealand but they could arrive on strong winds from Australia.
Every year, we test hundreds of cattle from areas where Culicoides could establish to ensure they don't have arboviruses. Midge traps are also set from February to April so we're aware of any Culicoides arrivals. Vets are encouraged to report suspected arbovirus cases to our pest and disease hotline.
Find out more
Arhopalus destroys pine logs and is a biosecurity risk to countries we trade with, such as Australia.
First spotted in 1963, Arhopalus is thought to have arrived in New Zealand in the 1950s. It is found across the North Island and in the extreme north of the South Island.
By watching Arhopalus closely, we're able to determine when adult insects enter their annual flight season – and when that season ends. Exporters take extra steps to guard against infestation of timber and logs during this period.
Find out more
Watching for about 100 species, including Queensland, Oriental and Mediterranean fruit flies.
Considered the world's worst fruit-crop pest, fruit fly larvae make fruit inedible. If the fruit fly established, it would expose New Zealand to trade restrictions from many countries.
Since 1989, this surveillance programme has detected fruit flies in New Zealand 9 times, most recently in February 2015. A combination of eradication programmes and ongoing surveillance has allowed New Zealand to remain fruit-fly free.
A national network of 7,600 pheromone traps are set around likely points of entry, such as city gardens, airports, seaports and cargo facilities. Monitoring occurs from September to June each year. Captured flies are visually examined and, if needed, diagnostically tested to ensure they're not harmful species.
Surveillance around Grey Lynn, Auckland, was more intense in 2015 while MPI eradicated a small population of Queensland fruit flies.
Find out more
Watching for Asian and European gypsy moths.
Gypsy moths can strip trees of leaves and reduce their growth or kill them. This has serious implications for forestry, horticulture, gardens and native bush.
An incursion occurred in Hamilton in 2003. Following intensive efforts, including aerial treatments, it was declared eradicated in 2005.
A network of 1,500 pheromone-lure traps are placed at likely points of entry, including airports, seaports and cargo storage facilities. Captured moths are visually examined and, if needed, diagnostically tested to ensure they're not harmful species. New Zealand remains gypsy-moth free.
Find out more
High-risk site surveillance
Watching for pests and diseases of forests, urban trees, orchards and native bush.
Organisms that attack trees can limit productivity and cause trade restrictions for our multibillion-dollar forestry and horticulture industries. They also threaten native ecosystems and trees in gardens and parks.
Each year, exotic organisms arrive that could affect New Zealand forestry. The burnt pine longhorn beetle (Arhopalus ferus) is an example of an organism that has established here, causing trade restrictions for some forestry exports.
About 7,000 annual inspections are carried out on trees in high-risk areas – next to airports, seaports, cargo facilities and popular tourist spots. Suspect material is sent to labs for diagnostic analysis. About 2 to 5 exotic organisms are found and dealt with each year.
Find out more
Initial investigating vet
Severe animal diseases can expose New Zealand to trade bans, threaten livelihoods and put human health at risk.
New Zealand eradicated a scrapie outbreak in 1952. A disease outbreak now would be more difficult to contain, given the increased movement of stock and people around the country.
Initial Investigating Vet (IIV) is a national network of vets on standby to respond to an emergency disease outbreak. They will assess and treat suspect animals as directed by New Zealand's duty incursion officer and lead a national response if a case is confirmed.
IIVs are part of the National Biosecurity Capability Network, a group of 142 organisations and 55,000 people ready to respond to a biosecurity threat.
Find out more
Watching for invasive organisms at high-risk ports.
Marine pests can threaten native species, affect fisheries and aquaculture, and destabilise local ecosystems. Organisms can arrive in ships' ballast water, on the hulls of boats or on infrastructure like drilling rigs and other marine equipment.
Several marine pests have established in New Zealand waters, including Australian droplet tunicate (Eudistoma elongatum), Mediterranean fanworm (Sabella spallanzanii) and Japanese kelp (Undaria pinnatifida). On average, a new marine species arrives in New Zealand every year and any one of these could become a pest. [PDF, 12 MB]
Ports of entry
Six thousand sites across New Zealand's 11 most heavily used ports and marinas are checked twice a year through a combination of trapping, underwater searches and shore searches. Any finds that can't be identified as local species are sent to labs for testing.
A fragile and unique marine environment, Fiordland is considered an international treasure. MPI, the Department of Conservation, and Environment Southland have developed a joint plan for responding to biosecurity threats in the region.
Find out more
- Port by port summary of findings for 2020-2021 [PDF, 33 MB]
- Port by port summary of findings for 2019-2020 [PDF, 14 MB]
- Port by port summary of findings for 2018-2019 [PDF, 12 MB]
- Port by port summary of findings for 2017-2018 [PDF, 15 MB]
- Joint-agency Fiordland marine biosecurity programme
- Marine pest identification guide [PDF, 2.1 MB]
- Port by port summary of findings for 2016–2017 [PDF, 12 MB]
Marine species identification
Accurate and timely identification of suspected pests is critical to mounting a successful response. However, the enormous biodiversity evident within our marine environments can complicate and slow that process.
Several pests have already established in New Zealand waters and another new species is found every year. The unexplored nature of our marine environments means that specialist taxonomic expertise is needed to understand these new species.
Formed by MPI and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the Marine Invasives Taxonomic Service provides access to leading taxonomists from around the country and the world. This resource speeds up the identification of suspected pests and has helped identify more than 70,000 samples since 2005.
Find out more
Watching for disease-carrying mosquitoes that can affect human and animal health.
The southern saltmarsh mosquito (Aedes camptorhynchus) can infect humans with Ross River virus. The condition inflames joints and muscles, leading to severe discomfort and significant time away from work.
An established southern saltmarsh mosquito population was found in Hawke's Bay in 1998, followed by similar discoveries across the country. It took 12 years and $70 million to eradicate the pest.
Mosquitos and larvae are sampled each year to ensure exotic species have not arrived. Samples are taken from high-risk areas next to national ports of entry and saltmarsh habitats. New Zealand has been free of the southern salt marsh mosquito since 2010.
Find out more
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE)
Watching for signs of disease and preventing any spread.
- Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle
- Scrapie in sheep
- Chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer.
TSEs are degenerative neurological diseases that can transmit between species and have been known to infect humans. Affected animals must be destroyed. Outbreaks trigger trade bans.
New Zealand has never had BSE or CWD. A 1952 scrapie outbreak was eradicated with the destruction of several sheep flocks.
Vets submit hundreds of samples a year from cows, sheep and deer that have shown signs of neurological disease. MPI-affiliated labs analyse those samples to ensure there's no TSE. Random samples are also taken from meat processing plants when animals are slaughtered. All imported animals are tested. This data supports New Zealand's TSE-free status.
A related programme audits 40 animal feed products each year to ensure they don't contain any protein from ruminant animals. That sort of contamination has been responsible for the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in other countries.
As a result of these measures, New Zealand remains TSE-free and has been assessed as having the lowest possible risk of outbreak by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
Find out more
- Are imported semen or embryos a BSE risk? [PDF, 17 KB]
- 2018 report on Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) surveillance
- Take part in TSE surveillance (for farmers and vets)
- New Zealand’s position with regard to BSE [PDF, 193 KB]
- New Zealand's official statement of freedom from scrapie [PDF, 260 KB]
- New Zealand's official statement of freedom from CWD [PDF, 191 KB]
Reporting a pest or disease
Call our pest and disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66.