Twenty-four new biosecurity detector dog teams (dog and handler) graduated from their training today – the biggest ever boost to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ sniffing force for stopping dangerous pests from entering New Zealand.
“The new dog teams will give us capacity to screen all arriving international flights for biosecurity risk goods,” says Steve Gilbert, MPI Border Clearance Services Director.
“They will also ensure we can make greater use of dog teams to greet international cruise ship passengers at regional ports.
“This is the largest number of dog teams to graduate at the same time in the history of MPI or its predecessors – so it is a significant day.”
The dog handlers are among 57 frontline biosecurity staff who graduated at the ceremony at the Vodafone Event Centre in Manukau.
The ceremony included a demonstration of MPI’s new mobile x-ray machine for scanning hand baggage carried by cruise ship passengers visiting regional ports.
“The new staff, dogs and x-ray equipment are part of a MPI biosecurity ramp-up to cope with increasing passenger numbers and the heightened threat of fruit fly-host material arriving in New Zealand,” says Mr Gilbert.
“It’s been a big year for us on the biosecurity frontline following the government’s decision to increase biosecurity funding in its 2015 budget.
“We have employed nearly 90 new staff and have purchased six new x-ray machines for inspecting baggage, including the mobile equipment.
“There have also been moves to improve our targeting of passengers that pose the highest level of biosecurity risk.
“Although you can never totally eliminate the risk of an unwanted pest or disease entering New Zealand, we feel our border biosecurity defences are in good shape to deal with what is going to be a very busy summer.”