Biosecurity review recommends changes to protect borders

An independent review of biosecurity controls at New Zealand borders has recommended changes to systems and technology.

The review was commissioned by MPI Director-General Ray Smith after a fruit fly was detected in Auckland earlier this year. 

It was conducted by leading Australian biosecurity expert Rob Delane. 

Mr Delane has since been appointed to the role of Inspector-General of Biosecurity in Australia.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has welcomed the findings of the review, saying it supports its current direction.

"It is pleasing to see that, overall, the review found the border protection services in the mail and passenger pathways are world-class and they protect New Zealand well," he said.

The review was ordered by MPI Director-General Ray Smith.
The review was ordered by MPI Director-General Ray Smith. Photo credit: Newshub

He said the review also notes the significant challenges our border is under and that on-going tactical and strategic improvement is essential. 

"To that end, a number of recommendations are made that I will ask Biosecurity New Zealand to carefully consider," said Smith.

A central finding of the review was the need to adopt new technology to ensure MPI's border systems kept up with rapid changes in travel and trade.

"The findings support our work to develop new baggage scanning technology, recommending that we move quickly to use real time tomography to scan all baggage at Auckland Airport."

"We are very well advanced in developing a prototype scanner that can automatically detect goods that pose biosecurity risk. Earlier this month, officers detected an egg in a suitcase shortly after the installation of the first version of software specially designed for biosecurity."

The review also suggests there are limitations with current mail and airport facilities in Auckland that may impede biosecurity. 

Mr Smith said MPI is currently in discussion with the property owners to upgrade those facilities.

"Interestingly, the review does not see a case for additional detector dogs, suggesting that other changes would lead to more effective use of our existing dog resources."

Another key recommendation of the reiview was to find ways to fast-track low risk passengers through our airport processes. 

However Mr Smith said they will investigate how that can be done.

"We are keen to talk further about this with airlines and airports, but our bottom line will always be that biosecurity cannot be compromised."

He said overall, the recommendations reinforce a lot of things that are already on MPI's radar. 

"We will look at how they can fit into our existing work programme."