Big changes unveiled for biosecurity

New Zealand's biosecurity system is to be overhauled for the first time in over 25 years, as the Government looks to avoid a repeat of the M bovis outbreak.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor on Friday said there would be changes to both the Biosecurity Act and the National Animal Identification and Tracing Act (NAIT).

He said the current Biosecurity Act was now 26 years old and needed updating.

"We're operating in a different world than we were in 1993. Tourism, imports and the rise of online shopping have meant a corresponding increase in biosecurity risk."

He said over the last few years there had been an increase in large biosecurity responses including M bovis, bonamia, myrtle rust and the Queensland fruit fly.

Damien O'Connor said the current Biosecurity Act was now 26 years old and needed updating
Damien O'Connor said the current Biosecurity Act was now 26 years old and needed updating Photo credit: Newshub

"As the climate warms we face a greater threat from exotic insects and pests to our primary industries."

The overhaul of the Biosecurity Act would be led by Biosecurity New Zealand. 

"They have started working with Māori, industry, and others to upgrade the Act. We will look at every aspect of the Act including compensation and funding." 

He said there were lessons to be learnt from M bovis and how it had been dealt with.

"The M bovis outbreak is the single biggest biosecurity event New Zealand has faced and it highlighted flaws in the NAIT scheme and Biosecurity Act. We're putting that right.

"I have been working with Biosecurity New Zealand and NAIT Limited, which manages the NAIT scheme, to fix it and make sure it is fit for the future."

A package of suggested changes to NAIT announced earlier had been agreed to by Cabinet.

These included improved tracing, tightened rules for handling untagged animals, improved use of data, and aligning penalties with other Acts to reflect the seriousness of non-compliance.

It also proposed changes to the performance framework for the organisation running NAIT (NAIT Ltd).

"Next week I will introduce an amendment Bill to Parliament to improve NAIT. The changes we're making will take New Zealand a step closer to having the animal tracing scheme we need to keep our primary sectors and economy safe."

Proposed changes would be put out for public feedback, with dates formal consultation on the Biosecurity Act will be announced later in the year.

Feedback on the changes to the NAIT Act would also be sought when the bill is in select committee.