The Biosecurity System

To most people, biosecurity operations are associated with highly visible activities such as Quarantine inspection at the border, the Detector Dogs that are used at Auckland International Airport to detect biosecurity risk goods, or high-profile incursion responses.

These are just the visible tip of the biosecurity 'iceberg'. Pests and diseases pose serious threats to our economy, environment, health and cultural identity.

  • In 2001, the Reserve Bank estimated that a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak could cost the economy $10 billion over two years. Thousands of jobs would be put at risk, and the economy would take years to recover.
  • New Zealand depends on healthy oceans and marine environments (for fishing, tourism, recreation, and native species), but we are just beginning to understand this part of our environment.
  • Many of the worst weeds and animals that seemed perfectly soft, furry and innocuous in other countries are causing us great damage.

Given the potential impacts of a serious biosecurity incursion, it's easy to see why biosecurity is critical for New Zealand. A lot more effort is put in behind the scenes to ensure that biosecurity risks are reduced, managed or eliminated long before - and in some cases after - unwanted pests and diseases reach our shores.

Biosecurity is not an end in itself; it achieves multiple outcomes, such as:

  • increased trade and market access for New Zealand's products;
  • maintaining and enhancing economic opportunities, growth and prosperity;
  • protection and enhancement of our natural and historic heritage, the integrity of ecosystems and the character of New Zealand landscapes;
  • optimised human health and wellbeing;
  • healthy and rewarding lifestyles, freedom and respect for cultural expression, and enjoyment of the recreational value of the natural environment; and
  • protection of Māori biologically-based economic and cultural resources - maintaining the relationship between Māori and their culture and traditions, and their ancestral lands, waters, waahi tapu and taonga.

The biosecurity system must be considered in a global context. It is more than just border protection and it is bigger than just one government agency.

The system covers biosecurity activities:

  • Offshore - reducing the risks posed by other countries through activities such as developing Standards and Regulations.
  • At our borders - stopping biosecurity-risk pests and diseases getting into New Zealand.
  • Within our borders - eradicating or managing those pests and diseases that have established.

It's a joint effort involving central government, regional councils, industry, community groups and of course four million pairs of eyes.

The geographic model is separated into three separate but interrelated zones of activity.

  • Global - rest of the world, outside New Zealand's borders, where biosecurity risks emerge and information on intelligence and surveillance is gathered and exchanged. This is where international treaties and multi-lateral agreements are negotiated and where responsibility for facilitating trade access and for New Zealand's reputation lies.
  • Pathways and Borders - the mode in which biosecurity-risk goods and organisms arrive and enter New Zealand, the final point at which people, goods and craft are given approval to enter into or depart from New Zealand, including all the activity to manage risk prior to or at the border. This includes export trade inspection and official assurances.
  • Within New Zealand - the management of risks and impacts of pests and diseases that have crossed the border and diseases that have already established in New Zealand. The effective national biosecurity management together with animal welfare management enables the assurance of New Zealand as an exporter that is free of biosecurity-risk goods.

A number of new initiatives have been implemented to boost biosecurity readiness and response. These are: Government-Industry Agreements, National Bovine Tb Management Strategy, Surveillance Strategy for New Zealand, improved animal identification and tracing, and Long-term Contract for biosecurity response operations.  See New Post Border Initiatives for additional information

Biosecurity response preparedness planning

MPI has developed a Management Action Plan Link to PDF document (263 KB), which describes, at a high level, how to implement recommended improvements to New Zealand’s preparedness for responding to pests and diseases of significance that arrive in New Zealand. Read more about the Biosecurity response preparedness planning.

Who is involved?

The biosecurity system requires the involvement of much more than central government agencies. Stakeholders are wide ranging with diverse interests and requirements – it is critical that all New Zealanders (individuals, industry and other organisations) participate and take responsibility for risks they create or are best placed to manage. The Ministry for Primay Industries provides the leadership across the biosecurity system, establishes the policy framework, delivers effective interventions across the system and encourages participation and collaborations of effort for improved outcomes.

Working with stakeholders is central to the Ministry for Primary Industries achieving its outcomes, and our focus will remain on relationship building, communication, education and consultation. Initiatives currently underway include:

  • a Border Sector Governance Group, comprising of chief executives from the New Zealand Customs Service (offsite link to, Department of Labour (offsite link to, Ministry of Transport (offsite link to and MPI, to improve the management of the border system by adopting a more cohesive and coherent approach;
  • joint efforts between the Ministry for Primary Industries and a container shipping company to reduce any contamination in containers coming from the Pacific Islands;
  • pest interceptions being made by industry accredited persons inspecting low-risk containers at approved transitional facilities.
  • the Fiordland Marine Biosecurity Programme, a joint programme between MPI, the Department of Conservation (offsite link to, Environment Southland (offsite link to and the Fiordland Marine Guardians (offsite link to, to protect the Fiordland area from harmful organisms.
  • The Ministry for Primary Industries and regional councils (offsite link to are working together to deliver summer didymo social marketing to improve controls;
  • the "Top of the South" marine biosecurity partnership model between central and local government and iwi;
  • industry pest surveillance programmes - providing critical information for operational business decision - making and providing improved early detection of new exotic pests; and
  • public surveillance programme for suspected new pests.

More recent initiatives include:

  • the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT (offsite link to;
  • the Kauri dieback response partnership;
  • the "Top of the North" marine biosecurity partnership model between central and local government and iwi; and
  • the surveillance strategy working group.

Future Directions for the Border Sector

Our border is critical to New Zealand’s prosperity. Over $80 billion in trade and 10 million travellers cross it each year.

Trade and travel patterns are also changing and growing - so we need to ensure our border is fit for the future.

In September 2012, the Government announced the pathway of improvements to New Zealand’s border following a major review of border services.

Development of the “Future Direction for the Border Sector” programme has been underway since February 2012 with the aims of improving border protection and making trade and travel easier through better coordination of border services across the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Customs and Immigration NZ.

The programme supports Better Public Services and the Government’s Business Growth Agenda.

For more detailed information about the programme, please view the below documents.

Joint Border Management System

Protecting our Border is a collaborative effort, with MPI and the New Zealand Customs Service working together to ensure our border management system is agile, effective and efficient.

The Joint Border Management System (JBMS) programme will be a replacement information system to meet New Zealand’s future border management needs.

JBMS will be a set of modern, integrated information technology products that MPI and Customs will use jointly.

It will give MPI, Customs and industry better information and risk assessment tools to protect New Zealand’s trade and biosecurity.

There are more details about the JBMS programme on the Customs website (offsite link to

Biosecurity Decision-making

In April 2007 the then MAF Biosecurity New Zealand agreed to use the Decisions Framework Link to PDF document (92 KB) across the organisation. The framework is a set of simple steps and principles to help people make biosecurity decisions. It provides guidance on what makes a good decision and how to make a good decision.

Page last updated: 24 September 2012