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Most primary industry organisations realise they need to sign up to the new Government-Industry Agreement (GIA) deed for biosecurity purposes, but many are concerned they still do not know the full ramifications, particularly the financial implications, of doing so.
In December, Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy announced the Cabinet had signed off on the GIA deed.
It defines the principles for the formal Government›industry partnerships formed to prepare for and respond to biosecurity threats and outlines the commitments each signatory must make.
The deed was developed by a joint industry and Ministry for Primary Industries working group after several years of debate, negotiation, submissions and reviews.
Mr Guy said partners would share decision-making, costs and the responsibility of preparing for and responding to biosecurity incursions.
"Joint decision-making and co-investment will mean that everyone is working together on the most important priorities,'' Mr Guy said.
Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesman William Rolleston said GIAs gave primary industry groups a "seat at the table'' when decisions were being made.
"It is not about it being 100% the Government's job and nor is it 100% the primary industries' job either.''
Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine said it had been a difficult process at times but now growers could feel they could contribute as equal partners to biosecurity decisions.
However, not all grower groups would be happy about having to share costs, he said.
"Some of our affiliated product groups will agree, some won't.
"It is a decision that each of them will need to discuss with their growers,'' Mr Raine said.
A GIA-MPI forum - the first since the deed was signed-off - to discuss the implications for industry was to begin yesterday in Wellington.
Courier Country spoke with representatives of several industry organisations who will have a presence at the forum. Summerfruit New Zealand chief executive Marie Dawkins said despite earlier misgivings, the organisation would "definitely be involved''.
"Summerfruit is taking a positive role - more than a watching brief.
"We can't ignore this and it's better to be involved than not involved,'' Ms Dawkins said.
"We will be talking to growers over the next few months to gauge opinion and get a mandate on whether or not to sign up.''
She said, although establishing a fair cost-sharing arrangement to fight an incursion was vital, it was secondary to other matters which needed clarification.
Crucial to her organisation was the make-up of the operational agreements, which identify the specific threats and set out the plans to prevent an incursion.
Whatever the outcomes, there would be "no free rides. We all have to step up and do what we can.''
The GIA deed was the outcome of five to seven years of work. A lot had been resolved and it was "moving forward''.
"But it's like: How do you eat an elephant? A bit at a time.''
There was always another issue sitting behind the issue just resolved, Ms Dawkins said.
National Beekeepers Association (NBA) president Ricki Leahy said he hoped by attending the forum its representatives would get a better understanding of the implications for the bee industry.
"We have . . . formed the Beekeeping Industry Advisory Council as a vehicle for both NBA and Federated Farmers Bees to work together on biosecurity issues. We won't get anywhere if we don't work together on that.''
Cost sharing and value for money was a sticking point but the industry's biggest concern was impending free trade agreements could open up the borders to the importation of honey and with it new diseases.
"What is the point in the industry contributing to biosecurity if it is compromised by free trade agreements? We won't get support from our members for that.
"It has to be a genuine biosecurity system and not compromised.''
He said there was a feeling MPI was "genuinely trying to get this to work. We are getting to the stage where we are getting a grip on whether we are being listened to.''
There was a positive feeling about the progress made to date and the industry wanted to contribute positively, Mr Leahy said.
New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter said the Pork Industry Board was seeking the mandate needed from its producers to sign the GIA deed.
"It's the industry board's belief we want to be involved.''
Most sectors believed it was essential to be involved and all were interested in seeing how the cost-sharing agreements would "pan out'' because there had not been a lot of information about that, he said.
Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Champak Mehta said it was important attend the forum and partake in the discussion because biosecurity was critical to its sector and so there was a need to understand the mechanics of the proposed framework and the pros and cons of the Deed.
There was a "great deal of complexity'' to the process which still to be worked through.
"Regarding GIA, while it's an excellent example of MPI working collaboratively with industry, the whole process is still in its embryonic stages and still has a long way yet to go,'' Mr Mehta said.
- by Ruth Grundy
Government Industry Agreement
The Government Industry Agreement (GIA) deed, which was developed by a joint industry and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) working group, was approved by the Cabinet in December.
The deed defines the principles for the formal Government-industry partnerships and outlines the commitments each signatory must make to manage biosecurity risks.
Cost-sharing for both planning and preparation as well as fighting an outbreak will be phased in over time beginning in July with industries required to pay the full share of costs for readiness in 2020 and response costs in 2023.
The agreement is the Government will make a 20% contribution towards costs, and MPI and industry will share the remaining 80% of costs.
Many sector organisations have yet to get a mandate from members to sign up to the deed but have signed a memorandum of understanding with MPI.
Members of the working group included representatives from the Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, Horticulture NZ, NZ Kiwifruit Growers, Dairy NZ, the Forest Owners Association and the poultry and egg industries.