Opinion: Better to be in the tent or out?

  • 30/11/2018

By Philippa Rawlinson

OPINION: Is it better to be involved and influencing or outside in the cold? 

That is a question for growers, processors and distributors of arable crops to answer.  

For the past month, Seed and Grain Readiness and Response New Zealand has held meetings around New Zealand to seek mandate from growers, processors and distributors of arable crops to join Government Industry Agreements on Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA).  

GIA is the partnership between the Government and industry which is meant to deliver an integrated approach to prepare for and effectively respond to biosecurity risk. There is no onus on industry stakeholders to sign up to GIA, only those sectors who see benefit in the outcomes have taken steps to become involved.  

To date there are 20 GIA deed signatories and they are doing some cool stuff in the biosecurity space.  As part of their readiness work, Kiwifruit Vine health (KVH) has developed a set of playing cards with the top 50 pests for KVH on those cards.  These playing cards have been given out to workers around the Port of Tauranga.

As a GIA Deed signatory, industry has an influence in a response that they are party to which will deliver better response outcomes for industry.  The trade-off for this influence, is a share in the cost of the response which will be no more than 50 per cent of the total response and may be less if other industry stakeholders are involved.

On the face of it, it is a partial transfer of response costs from the tax payer to tax payer and industry.  This of course means growers are now paying multiple times for biosecurity.  

The arable industry has been involved in its fair share of responses over the last couple of years: velvetleaf, pea weevil and blackgrass to name a few.  In each of these responses industry has had the opportunity to provide feedback, but not the opportunity to have a formal influence in the response.  We all agree that if the arable industry had been formally involved with the pea weevil response, early response outcomes could have been different.

The arable industry has not had a gun held to its head to get signed up to GIA, in fact as a sector we have carefully considered the pros and cons of becoming a signatory and what is the right body to be the GIA Deed signatory on behalf of the arable industry.  

Seed and Grain Readiness and Response has taken an alternative approach in that the group involves all stakeholders which will be impacted by an incursion and all those who will benefit from the incursion. 

GIA is not perfect, but it is a tool for the arable industry to have a greater say in response activities.  

If growers, processors and distributors of arable crops did not see the benefit of GIA, then as an industry they will need to reconcile that in any future responses industry will have no say or opportunity to influence.  Response decisions will be made on our behalf.

Philippa Rawlinson is Federated Farmers Arable advisor.