Flower importer fined for biosecurity breach

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A Mangere-based flower importer was fined $10,000 in Manukau District Court in July on Biosecurity Act charges.

Premium Flowers NZ Limited pleaded guilty to 7 strict liability charges of providing false or misleading information about goods to be imported, laid by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The offending involved illegally importing plant material that could introduce pests and diseases to New Zealand that would have a negative impact on horticulture and the environment.

Six of the charges related to importing cut Aster flowers from Malaysia in July and August 2013 with the accompanying documentation identifying them as another species called Solidago.

Aster is a species that is prohibited from entry into New Zealand, although Solidago may be imported from Malaysia under an Import Health Standard.

A further charge related to importing cut foliage from the plant Asplenium (birds nest fern) from Malaysia in April 2014 where the accompanying documentation identified it as Dracaena.

Asplenium cannot be imported from Malaysia for biosecurity reasons, while Draceana can be imported from any country under an Import Health Standard.

Company director and manager Hwee Teng Tok told MPI that it was a mistake caused by confusion around plant names that arose when a key staff member left and she had to assume extra responsibilities.

MPI Northern Cargo Manager Stu Rawnsley says New Zealand has a rigorous biosecurity system to protect the environment from the introduction of new pests and diseases.

"Importers have a key role and responsibility in complying with our biosecurity regulations, and there can be serious consequences for not meeting them."

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