New Zealand’s biosecurity system is split into three quite separate parts; pre-border, at the border and post-border. Let’s take a look at the pre-border part of the process first. So what does pre-border encompass and why is it important?
Pre-border is where the biosecurity risk to New Zealand is managed offshore before anything reaches our border. This can be managed through a variety of different ways, such as excluding certain products (i.e. there is no Import Health Standard for snakes, thank goodness). This can also be managed by undertaking pre-shipment treatments or inspections, such as aircraft residual disinsection and the use of equivalent systems (offshore inspection of used vehicles from Japan).
The next part of our biosecurity system is at the NZ border where risk is managed (a verification step to determine if imports are permitted entry) through the following:
- Documentation checks – this is especially the case for cargo
- Physical inspection – air and sea passengers
- Post-entry quarantine – zoo animals and nursery stock
- Treatment – such as the fumigation of imported scrap metal
- Approved people carrying out border-related functions – i.e. trained and MPI-approved Accredited Persons.
The final part of New Zealand’s biosecurity system is post-border where we try to detect problems that have already passed through the border. This can be very difficult and so MPI utilises every tool in their arsenal to cast a wide net. These tools include:
- Public awareness – this is very important
- Surveillance trapping – i.e. fruit fly traps
- Identification of unusual organisms found by the public
- Standard surveillance – for example; at the meat works for animal diseases
- Pest surveys – i.e. African foulbrood in bees
The general idea is that it is best to keep problems away from the border through exclusion or some sort of pre-importation process (pre-border). This is because once it gets to the border it is accepted that there will always be slippage of risk. As with all things, the first 95% is easy… It’s the last 5% that gets exponentially more difficult (and expensive) to find. The trick is to take enough risk out of the system without bringing trade and travel to a standstill.
If somehow a problem does get through the border (post-border) then it is best to find it quickly to give us the best chance of dealing with it effectively!