Govt must come clean about its fruit fly failure

Nathan Guy needs to stop playing politics with biosecurity and face up to the fact that National’s cuts to biosecurity funding contributed to the Queensland fruit fly outbreak, the Green Party said today.

Figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library show that under National, spending on biosecurity has not kept up with inflation, the number of biosecurity officers has dropped, and the number of border protection dogs has also reduced.

“Serious questions need to be asked about the Government’s secretive approach to the current fruit fly incursion and its mismanagement and underfunding of biosecurity more generally,” said Green Party biosecurity spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Nathan Guy says biosecurity funding has increased by $9 million since National took office in 2008, but it should have increased by $15 million just to keep up with inflation. Mr Guy needs to admit that the Government is failing when it comes to biosecurity.

“There were 39 detector dogs in 2008, but in 2014 there were just 35 including those in training, even though Mr Guy says the Government has ‘significantly increased the number of dogs.’

“In 2008 there were 478.5 full time equivalent biosecurity officers, but in 2014 just 461. This dropped as low as 387.7 in 2012.

“This fruit fly incursion is just the latest in a long line of biosecurity failures under National including the Great White Butterfly, Chilean needle grass, and theileria a protozoa which has killed thousands of cattle since its arrival in 2012 and is now beyond eradication. The Government is failing our agriculture and horticulture sectors.

“I have seen the work on the ground in the Auckland exclusion zone and the MPI team are doing a great job. But they’re scrambling to react to a situation that should never have occurred. The Government needs to protect our horticulture industry better by beefing up border protection with more dogs, staff, and x-rays.

“Once pests enter New Zealand the cost of cleaning up after them is huge. MPI should be appropriately resourced to develop strategies to keep our borders secure. Yet the Government has cut the budget for strategic biosecurity policy advice from nearly $11 million in 2008 to just $3 million in 2015. This is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach,” Mr Browning said.

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