Veg NZ signs biosecurity cost deal

The Queensland fruit fly. Photo by Biosecurity NZ.
A Queensland fruit fly. Photo by Biosecurity NZ.

Vegetables New Zealand has signed an agreement with the government to share the cost of managing biosecurity procedures as it faced being charged for some of the costs with no input otherwise.

It is the 12th primary sector organisation to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) for Biosecurity Readiness and Response, which gives the industries a say in decision-making and a share of the costs and responsibilities in preparing for and responding to biosecurity incursions. Pre-border and border control remains the government responsibility.

Biosecurity is seen as vital to New Zealand's economic interests given the nation's reliance as a pest-free island selling primary produce to the world but the government has effectively said it wants industry to help fund new measures to plug any gaps that exist.

"With the increased number of imports, containers and tourists, the potential risk for a foreign pest or disease to establish itself in New Zealand is increasing all the time," said Vegetables NZ chairman Andre de Bruin.

Vegetables NZ represents 900 commercial growers who produce more than 50 crops, with a farm gate value of more than $390 million a year.

How much each industry organisation will be required to stump up is still being worked on, though Vegetables NZ said it was expecting the costs to be split 50:50 between industry and government.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has indicated it will start seeking cost recovery for responses to biosecurity incursions from July next year.

Vegetables NZ general manager John Seymour said that meant the organisation may as well be at the table helping make decisions on how the money is best allocated.

The first GIA agreement to work out how the costs will be split was one covering the threat of fruit fly which was agreed between government and Pipfruit NZ, Kiwifruit Vine Health, New Zealand Avocado Growers Association, and New Zealand Citrus Growers in May.

Under that deal, the government will meet 70% of the "readiness" costs in preparing for a fruit fly incursion while industry meets the other 30%. For response costs, the split varies depending on how big the public threat is, varying from government footing 70% of the bill while industry covers 30% for a minor threat up to government covering 90% and industry 10% for a big incursion.

GIA secretariat manager Steve Rich said a number of other sector groups including Vegetables New Zealand are also expected to sign up to that pest-specific agreement. Each of the GIA partners sign operational agreements either covering one pest - such as fruit fly - and/or a sectoral one covering all potential threats.

Fruit flies are said to be one of the biggest biosecurity threats facing horticulture and could cost the industry an estimated $2.1 billion. In 2014, Kiwifruit Vine Health estimated the financial impact of a fruit fly incursion to the kiwifruit industry alone could be as high as $430 million.

Rich said he expected one other industry organisation to sign up to GIA before Christmas and another five by the end of the financial year next June. Potentially there are around 25-to-30 primary sector organisations that could join which means some may not by the expected kick-in of cost recovery.

 - BusinessDesk 

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