How is the Government responding to the identification of the Psa disease in New Zealand?
Since Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae (Psa) was identified in New Zealand 11 days ago, a major biosecurity operation has swung into action. The response team of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry was on the ground within hours of notification. Since then a major round-the-clock programme of movement controls, laboratory testing, spraying, vine control, and grower education has been in place. The ministry has also been communicating extensively with our offshore trading partners to ensure that market access remains open. The Government and industry have been working together extremely closely on this serious disease outbreak, and to date we have seen a well-managed response implemented at speed.
Although urgent testing continues, with some 500 hectares now confirmed as infected, eradication—at least in the short term—is unlikely. The Government and industry are now focused on developing a programme of aggressive containment of Psa, which involves restricting it to currently infected sites. I am meeting with industry tomorrow in an attempt to finalise that response. Aggressive containment will require investment from the Government. The kiwifruit industry will also have to make a similar commitment but we are both 100 percent focused on ensuring a prosperous and vibrant sector into the future.
Will the Government response include reinstatement of the 54 front-line biosecurity jobs he cut in 2009—cuts that may have contributed to the disease breaching New Zealand’s borders?
No, it will not. This Government has appropriated more money for biosecurity than the previous Government did and I am certain that the readjustments at the border associated with imported containers and used cars have nothing whatsoever to do with the possible incursion of Psa, which is a disease that could have been here for many years.
What has been the feedback from the kiwifruit industry on the support provided by the Government to date?
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the last 11 days has been how the Government and industry have worked together in a collaborative way to address this very serious issue. Industry leaders from Zespri, the New Zealand kiwifruit growers, and various post-harvest operators have specifically thanked me for the timely, expert, and high-quality support provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. It is still early days in the response to this challenging disease, but I am confident that the high-quality and professional leadership provided by both industry and the ministry leaves us well placed to tackle this disease.