Biosecurity busting bugs have an open door with international shipping

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says it warned for years that opening New Zealand coastal and trans-Tasman shipping to international carriers would create biosecurity risks from exotic pests.

Now the Union says it has sadly been proved correct.

Maritime Union Auckland Branch Local 13 President Garry Parsloe says the orange-spotted hadda beetle arrived via the Ports of Auckland and is the latest in a long list of pests to become established in New Zealand through ports.

MAF have decided it would be too costly to eradicate the bug which devastates crops such as eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes overseas, and which is reported to be likely to cost the horticulture industry $100 million over the next 20 years.

Mr Parsloe says that before 1994 large amounts of our shipping was New Zealand based, which limited entry points to many exotic pests.

However since the previous National Government opened coastal shipping to overseas in 1994, the large number of international vessels carrying cargo between New Zealand ports has increased the risk.

Mr Parsloe says the trans-Tasman trade once had many New Zealand vessels working on it, now it has none.

He says the Maritime Union, and prior to 2002 the New Zealand Seafarers Union, campaigned long and hard to keep coastal shipping and trans-Tasman shipping reserved for local vessels.

The Union supports cabotage, a widely used system which gives local carriers priority to carry cargo between domestic ports.

“The reasons for our strong and ongoing opposition to the so-called open coast policy is not just that global shippers carry New Zealand goods within New Zealand waters and pay no tax, but also because of the extra risk to biosecurity.”

A few bugs coming in on an international vessel can add up to tens of millions of dollars of damage.

“The leave it to the market mindset of the open coast policy has come back and literally bitten New Zealand on the bum.”

“We have opened our coast up not only to global shipping companies but to all sorts of pests which have quickly become established onshore, threatening our key industries and even health.”

He says that it was promised that biosecurity measures would take care of exotic pests from international vessels, but that has not been successful.

Mr Parsloe says it is not too late to put back New Zealand ships on the coastal trade and substantially reduce the biosecurity risk.

He hoped the horticulture and agriculture industries would support such a move as it would be in their best interests.

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