MPI must not miss the boats

The Orchardist - - >>president's Word - If you have in­for­ma­tion about any breach in biose­cu­rity, then in the in­ter­ests of ev­ery­one and the whole hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try that in­for­ma­tion (with as much de­tail as pos­si­ble) needs to be passed on to MPI im­me­di­ately. The ap­pro­pri­ate con­tact in MPI is S

“Hav­ing been king-hit by tomato potato psyl­lid and with Psa loom­ing over the back fence, I am quickly reach­ing the end of MY risk-path­way!”

Guest writer Craig Wat­son Chair­man, NZ Ta­mar­illo Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion An­other day, an­other fruit fly find in Whangarei and more stress for grow­ers. As a long time Whangarei res­i­dent and grower, I am shocked that this can be hap­pen­ing in my back­yard, the sec­ond time in three months. The im­pli­ca­tions of a mul­ti­ple-fly find and a larger 25 km con­trolled zone would be es­pe­cially bad for lo­cal grow­ers. No fruit move­ment means no do­mes­tic or in­ter­na­tional mar­ket un­til move­ment is al­lowed. I know we have a fan­tas­tic lo­cal grow­ers' mar­ket, but I don't fancy try­ing to sell 80 tonnes of tamar­il­los there. My stress is com­pounded by some mixed mes­sages com­ing from the me­dia. On the sev­enth of April my chil­dren read me the head­line of the North­ern Ad­vo­cate – “Fresh fruit fly found”. My heart dropped – I will be in a con­trolled zone any minute and my har­vest will be over. But there is no fol­lowup find, just a story run­ning four days late. For the next two weeks this sce­nario is re­peated many times as the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) ra­dio broad­casts an­nounce: “A male Queens­land fruit fly has been found in the Par­i­haka area.” The ad­ver­tise­ments con­tinue un­abated to ed­u­cate and en­cour­age com­pli­ance of the Whangarei res­i­dents. The mes­sages seem to work; the con­tain­ment ar­eas work well and fruit fly is the talk of the town. I de­cide to stop read­ing the paper and ig­nore the ra­dio. So what are the lo­cals say­ing? Mostly they are sur­prised, ques­tion­ing, and there is a fair bit of fin­ger point­ing go­ing on as well. Why is it that three out of five Queens­land fruit fly de­tec­tions in New Zealand have been found in a leafy sub­urb of Whangarei? Soon af­ter the April 1 trap­ping I am frus­trated that I am hear­ing the same rhetoric from MPI around this new dis­cov­ery. I have no gripe with the trap­ping and con­tain­ment ac­tions.They have been rapid and thor­ough. But state­ments around re­view­ing im­por­ta­tion re­quire­ments of high-risk goods again are frus­trat­ing. We all agree that we need to en­sure these pests don't get through the bor­der in the first place. But why is MPI so fo­cused on re­view­ing commercial path­ways? The first step in any such anal­y­sis is to look for the link­ages. There are no di­rect commercial fruit im­ports into Port Whangarei. There is no in­ter­na­tional air­port here. There are two su­per­mar­kets close to this zone but the amount of high-risk fruit sold there is min­i­mal. If this was the prob­lem path­way, wouldn't we see in­cur­sions hap­pen­ing around the container ports, in­ter­na­tional air­ports and cen­tralised dis­tri­bu­tion points? A re­tail fruit path­way risk would be the same through­out a large part of New Zealand dur­ing the sum­mer months. To me, two de­tec­tions in one sub­urb in one sum­mer doesn't add up.

What is spe­cial about the sub­urb of Par­i­haka is that there is a very pop­u­lar ma­rina at the bot­tom of the hill, where in­ter­na­tional boat­ies gather af­ter spend­ing the spring/ sum­mer sea­son in the Pa­cific Is­lands and Aus­tralia. Some will call at the port of Opua first, but for many Whangarei will be the first port of call in New Zealand. To the south is a commercial ma­rine area ser­vic­ing tuna boats, su­per yachts and the like. To the lo­cals, this is an ob­vi­ous risk path­way as D. try­oni has been found in many Pa­cific Is­lands over the years. (New Cale­do­nia, So­ci­ety Is­lands (in­clud­ing Tahiti) Easter Is­land, Aus­tral Is­lands, Pit­cairn Is­land and Tor­res Straight Is­land) and of course the Whit­sun­day Is­lands off Queens­land coast which is also pop­u­lar with boat­ies. Lo­cal grow­ers have spo­ken with many yachties about the Jan­uary in­cur­sion. We as­sumed that MPI would have been all over the ma­rina like a rash, but that is not what we hear. I am en­cour­aged to have seen MPI of­fi­cers on the docks in the ma­rina soon af­ter the lat­est find. I also see oth­ers pa­trolling on the Hi­hi­aua Penin­sula and Pohe Is­land. I hope they are think­ing “what is it about this place, why has this hap­pened here twice this sum­mer?” So now that the in­cur­sion has ended, what hap­pens now? What can be learnt? I think MPI can be con­fi­dent that the mon­i­tor trap­ping works as a de­tec­tion tool and that its re­sponses have been thor­ough. It has taken this se­ri­ously and we ap­pre­ci­ate it. But large ques­tions re­main around the source of the flies and I urge MPI to ex­plore all po­ten­tial path­ways as a risk. As a grower I can only hope for the best and for me that is sim­ple – no more in­cur­sions! Hav­ing been king-hit by tomato potato psyl­lid and with Psa loom­ing over the back fence, I am quickly reach­ing the end of MY risk-path­way! That's my five cents worth. I hope it stim­u­lates some new think­ing.

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