What is biosecurity and why should we care?

Post by Anna Frances Probert @AFProbert

Human movement and global trade are ever-increasing. Last year 5.6 million people arrived into New Zealand and more than 1.7 million containers moved through New Zealand ports. This increases the risk of unwanted organisms (disease and pest species) arriving and establishing. The management of these risks (both pre border and post border) is what biosecurity encompasses.

Unwanted organisms can have dramatic impacts on our livelihoods – impacting economic, social and environmental values. In most circumstances, introduced species (that is, species that are not native to New Zealand) are benign. Many of them won’t survive to establish, having evolved to thrive in different environments. However, a small subset do survive, establish and then spread across the landscape, becoming ‘invasive species’. If we perceive these to have a negative impact, then they are considered ‘pest species’.

Preventing new organisms from entering New Zealand is much easier and more cost-effective than trying to eradicate or control them once they slip past the border. Although there have been several successful eradication programmes conducted in New Zealand – for instance the Argentine ant on Tiritiri Matangi and the Queensland fruit fly in Auckland.

Recently, government funding for the Predator Free New Zealand project was announced, which aims to support the large-scale eradication of rats, possums and mustelids from New Zealand. This ambitious project will have massive benefits for native flora and fauna as well as remove the costs associated with the long term management of these pests.

The announcement of this project coincided with the launch of the government’s Biosecurity 2025 strategy, which aims to review and future-proof New Zealand’s biosecurity system. The current Biosecurity 2025 document outlines proposals for what might be in the direction statement, which will guide New Zealand’s biosecurity system into the future. As a nominated ‘Biosecurity Champion’, myself along with Rudd Kleinpaste, Bruce Wills and Graeme Marshall are involved in promoting the importance of biosecurity and public involvement in the consultation process.

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Biosecurity Champion on the radio

Public submissions are now open, and as part of the consultation process public meetings and hui are to be held around the country.

Biosecurity is an issue that affects every New Zealander. I encourage everyone to make a submission, so that we can work together to protect our country from unwanted organisms, now and into the future.

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At the Biosecurity 2025 launch

MeblogAnna Probert is a PhD student in the Centre for Biodiversity & Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is using ants as a model to assess the risk posed by exotic invertebrates to native ecosystems. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Jacqueline Beggs, and Darren Ward.

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