Company fined for breaching Biosecurity Act

Spilling grass seed contaminated with the plant pest black grass has cost a seed company $57,000 in fines and up to $300,000 for a monitoring programme.

PGG Wrightson Seeds was fined in the Ashburton District Court last week for two breaches of the Biosecurity Act in charges laid by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The company was fined $21,000 on the first charge of transporting 2kg of the seed without authority and $36,750 on the second charge of transporting the rest of the shipment to Methven without meeting specific conditions.

A shipment of red fescue grass seed imported from Denmark in May last year was found to be contaminated with invasive black grass seed, also known as slender meadow foxtail, a pest plant not found in New Zealand.

The company was granted permission to move the seed from Rolleston to Tinwald for removal of the black grass seed. This was not possible at the Tinwald plant and permission was given to move the seed, in sealed containers, to a Methven plant for treatment.

The consignment was weighed in Denmark and weighed again when recleaned in Methven. A discrepancy was discovered. Seeds were found on the deck of the truck that transported it and it was realised there had been a spill.

Since the spill, PGG Wrightson Seeds has been working with MPI, Federated Farmers, the Foundation of Arable Research and Environment Canterbury to address any biosecurity threats.

MPI response manager David Yard said there had been no black grass found in the area this season.