Bio-security risks not worth gamble
escaped into the community.
Last week, another example surfaced. Authorities are still trying to measure how extensively the velvetleaf weed has penetrated the country’s biosecurity defences.
As many as 300 farms from Waikato to Southland may currently be spreading velvetleaf far and wide.
Apparently, the weed entered this country amid some seed batches for the beet fodder intended for farm animals.
Velvetleaf has been described as the plant equivalent of the Queensland fruit fly. The weed competes aggressively for nutrients with everything in its vicinity.
Reportedly, velvetleaf can cut the yield from normal farm production from 35 to 90 per cent wherever it gets a foothold.
On Southland farms, teams of up to 40 field workers are being deployed on search and destroy missions. Two varieties of beet fodder seed are known to have been contaminated, and testing may reveal more.
Neither the country of origin nor the seed importer involved had been publicly identified, at time of writing.
Ultimately, it could be difficult to prove liability and win compensation for the costs of eradication. Presumably, the seed shipments were certified as safe at the point of dispatch – but the contamination could have been present within the consignment, or occurred during transportation or from the pallets used to pack and store the seed.
On arrival here, a rigorous testing process is supposed to happen, but New Zealand officials may have relied upon the importers’ paperwork.
As an agricultural exporter, New Zealand faces a more serious threat from bio-security than it does from Islamic State terrorists.
Corners have been cut. As a possible consequence, our hardpressed farmers now face a new paddock invader, one that could become a chronic threat to New Zealand’s farm production.