Biosecurity remains highest priority for ag sector

Alan Willox, head detection dog handler at the Ministry for Primary Industries, with dog Georgie...
Alan Willox, head detection dog handler at the Ministry for Primary Industries, with dog Georgie which was trained to detect the invasive stink bug. PHOTO: DOUG SHERRING
Biosecurity has retained the number one ranking as top priority in KPMG's Agribusiness Agenda for the ninth consecutive year.

The report followed input from primary sector leaders. Biosecurity's priority score dropped 5.6% on 2018, reflecting the lack of a high profile incursion during the year.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said biosecurity also remained a priority for him. New Zealand continued to face significant challenges, including the threat of brown marmorated stink bug, recent fruit fly discoveries in Auckland and particularly the ongoing work to eradicate bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Leaders wanted to see higher priority placed on "collaboration and cost-sharing to proactively manage biosecurity risk through the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) structure, the report said.

Mycoplasma bovis had again highlighted how an incursion could quickly shift from being a national, government issue into a localised and personal one for those who had the misfortune to be impacted.

Biosecurity was an issue that should be a priority on the risk register of every organisation; yet most were prepared to discount the risk until they found themselves at the centre of an incursion, leaders said.

The top 10 priorities saw two newcomers this year - penalties for those that did not protect their livestock - which was no surprise given the increased focus on the ethical framework underlying food production - and delivering research and development incentives to support innovation.

The need to accelerate investment in innovation was a recurring theme during the roundtable discussions.

Three priorities dropped out of the top 10; developing future leaders fell from eight to 13, which likely reflected the sector's broader focus on securing the full spectrum of skills and capabilities needed, versus leadership talent specifically.

Schemes to regenerate native ecosystems dropped from ninth to 15th, which the report suggested reflected the current uncertainty around what the Zero Carbon framework would mean in practice, and the unwillingness to commit to significant system change until those rules were clarified.

Investment in irrigation and water storage infrastructure fell from 10 to 19, no doubt reflecting the increased challenge of getting a project off the ground as Government seed money had been withdrawn and, potentially, the lack of significant drought events compared to recent years.

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