How do Kiwi’s view Biosecurity?

Posted on July 31, 2018

There was interesting article in Stuff this month concerning people’s perception of biosecurity in New Zealand.

The article stated these alarming statistics:

Just 2 per cent of New Zealanders believe they would be personally affected by a biosecurity breach, despite the far-reaching impacts of Mycoplasma bovis and kauri dieback.

A recent survey found more than 60 per cent of Kiwis had a good understanding of biosecurity and thought it was important but 98 per cent thought they would be unaffected by a breach.

Operating in a business environment where biosecurity is high, you tend to assume that most people think like yourself and share similar viewpoints. New Zealand has had a list of major recent biosecurity alerts and while Myrtle Rust is not mentioned in the article it’s one we are trying to manage nationally and has involved plant producers first hand. Some of the outcomes have not been positive and due to Myrtle Rust, there is another layer of complexity to business now as a plant producer.

What is encouraging is that, as Kiwis, we understand that biosecurity is important, and this shows in the 60%, but the fact that 98% think they will be unaffected is concerning. The disconnect needs to be better understood and those of us working in the green sector need to get this message out into the community more. We are the sentinels and have a better ability to see pests and diseases as we are dealing with young fresh plants.

Biosecurity is often referred to as the “staring-at-the-whites-of-your-eyes” problem. Meaning unless we are staring at the problem right in front of our face we tend to forget about it. This may be because of the negatives that surround the problem. Remember PSA in the Kiwifruit industry anyone?

New Zealand has 4,891,475 biosecurity agents, (the population of NZ at the time of writing the article), that should be caring for our environment and on the watch for an invasive pest or disease. We should realise that our economy relies very heavily on the green spaces in rural NZ. These are the Forestry, Farming, Fishing, Fruit & Vegetables and now Tourism sectors. All these sectors are at risk from a biosecurity incursion and all of them are currently, or recently, dealing with an incursion. How can 4,793,646 (98%) of us think that none of these sectors affects us? New Zealand has a unique advantage of being surrounded by ocean and away from other land masses, but our borders are busy dealing with the globe daily.

The Plant Producer industry NZPPI is working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and other sector groups to try and get a stronger alignment to enhance biosecurity standards. Core or basic hygiene and practices will likely emerge from this initiative to lift standards required to grow plants. Currently there is a big gap in our wider industry between those who meet standards and those who have no standards at all to measure against.

There is an interesting article on the NZPPI website for the background of this work http://nzppi.co.nz/advocacy/107-699/plant-producer-biosecurity-scheme-background-information and look at what is happening around the globe with a pathogen like Xylella fastidiosa as an example. This pathogen, spread by sap feeding insects, is wiping out ancient olive groves in Italy and vineyards in California.

Xylella fastidiosa affected Olive Grove in Salento, South Italy – Shutterstock.

Xylella fastidiosa affected grape leaf, Southern California – Shutterstock

 

The Stuff article talks about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. This will affect all New Zealanders and they need to know about it. This is a nasty and huge stinky risk that has potential to cost our economy billions of dollars and it is already breaching our borders!

The MPI have taken steps in awareness programs, https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/responding/alerts/brown-marmorated-stink-bug/ and put banners up in public places but we should all help in spreading this message further. Read the article and watch the video and you will understand why we need to take our biosecurity seriously and why all New Zealanders are affected.

Kauri Park are constantly improving nursery hygiene, nursery practices and trying to spread the message about how biosecurity is important. Please join us in spreading the message and let’s see if we can move those percentage points of Kiwi’s perception further in the right way.

New Zealand needs better vigilance. Biosecurity matters.