Guest Blog: Opportunity to help reshape the Biosecurity Act

12 Aug 2019 Guest Blog: Opportunity to help reshape the Biosecurity Act image

With Mike on leave, Deputy Chief Executive, Leanne Stewart has contributed this week's blog.

 

The review of the Biosecurity Act provides an opportunity for industry groups to have a say in the future framework to protect New Zealand. The first of its kind in the world, our Act led a global trend in protecting the economic, environmental, social and cultural values from biosecurity risk. However, like all pieces of legislation, they become outdated and require periodic reviews to ensure they remain fit for purpose. It is at this point where we find ourselves now, with the overhaul of the Act before us and the opportunity to have our say.

In its current form the Act provides a basis to protect New Zealand from unwanted pests and diseases across the biosecurity system. However, in a modern world with increasing pressures from trade and tourism, the emergence of new risk pathways and climate change, we need a future focussed Act that will provide regulatory flexibility to be able to respond to biosecurity risk.

The Act overhaul has been planned to address a number of key issues to improve the effectiveness of the biosecurity system and enable activities: 

-          the Act's overarching purpose and set of guiding principles

-          how te ao Māori (the Māori world) is reflected in biosecurity regulation

-          clear and consistent roles and responsibilities across the biosecurity system

-          how the system is funded, including for biosecurity responses

-          setting import requirements

-          getting the right balance between enforcement and incentives

-          filling gaps in the legislation that past responses have revealed.

To understand how participants of the biosecurity system interact with the current framework and where we see the pressure points, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is holding stakeholder workshops nationwide to seek feedback on the above workstreams. Of particular interest to the horticulture industry is funding of the system and setting import requirements. The first, system funding, has been fast-tracked for review, with MPI’s intention to complete consultation by the end of 2019.

How the biosecurity system is funded is critical for the horticulture industry to have continued confidence in investment. Paying for its share of the Mycoplasm bovis biosecurity response has emptied the government’s coffers and there’s not much left. The resources that have been diverted to this response have placed a tremendous amount of pressure on MPI, the industries involved in the response with flow on effects to industries such as horticulture. This has resulted in the government considering alternative funding mechanisms to help fund current and responses.

As part of the Act stakeholder workshops, MPI is exploring funding options for the future and has requested industry provide feedback and ideas. Last year the Finance Minister floated the idea of a universal biosecurity levy. However, this was parked for consideration under the Act, which is where we’re at now. How the horticulture industry currently pays for biosecurity responses is usually under the Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA). Plant sector groups were early adopters of GIA, seeing the benefit of shared decision making and cost-sharing with MPI.

Our investment in GIA means we co-fund readiness programmes for priority pests and have a mechanism to pay for responses under operational agreements with set cost shares and decision making. We need to ensure a future system won’t add another layer of cost. This is why it’s so important for industry to have a say at the Act workshops and come up with a funding system that suits our needs and recognises the commitments we’ve already made. Potential options before us include different types of pooled funding or insurance products. We know the government isn’t satisfied with keeping the status quo.

Other funding issues of importance include how growers are compensated after a response, how funds are recovered from industry groups who’re not party to GIA, the importance of on-farm biosecurity practices, GIA provisions and principles to assist economic outcomes. All of these could have significant impacts on our industry if not designed properly.

I encourage everyone to get involved and attend a stakeholder workshop to share their experiences with the Act and help shape future legislation. HortNZ will continue to advocate for the interests of our members to ensure the revised Act enables our industry’s continued growth and can operate under a resilient biosecurity system that’s appropriately funded.

Leanne Stewart, Deputy Chief Executive