Who is Responsible for Biosecurity?
While the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry holds overall responsibility for biosecurity, it is just one part of New Zealand's biosecurity system.
The biosecurity system is made up of a wide range of groups and organisations working together:
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) - the lead agency.
- Others in the government sector including
- the Ministry for the Environment
- Ministry of Tourism
- Tourism New Zealand
- Ministry for Economic Development
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Ministry of Health
- Land Information New Zealand
- Ministry of Fisheries
- the Department of Conservation
- Environmental Risk Management Authority
- Crown Research Institutes
- National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
- New Zealand Food Safety Authority .
- Primary production organisations
- Industry sectors such as importers, exporters, transport and travel, marine and tourism operators.
- Regional councils and local government .
- Public health sector.
- Environmental groups.
The biosecurity system requires the involvement of much more than central government agencies. Stakeholders are wide ranging with divers 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. MAFBNZ provides the leadership across the biosecurity system, establishes the policy framework, delivers effective interventions across the system and encourages participation ad collaborations of effort for improved outcomes.
Working with stakeholders is central to MAFBNZ 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 chief executives from the New Zealand Customs Service , Department of Labour , Ministry of Transport and MAF , to improve the management of the border system by adopting a more cohesive and coherent approach;
- joint efforts between MAFBNZ and a container shipping company to reduce any contamination in containers 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 MAF , the Department of Conservation , Environment Southland and the Fiordland Marine Guardians , to protect the Fiordland area from harmful organisms.
- MAFBNZ and regional councils are working together to deliver summer didymo social marketing to improve compliance with people, goods and craft movement controls;
- the “Top of the South” marine biosecurity partnership model between central and local government;
- industry pest surveillance programmes – providing critical information for operational business decision – making and providing improved early detection of new exotic pests;
- public surveillance programmes for suspended new pests.
The four main biosecurity agencies are:
- the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)
- the Department of Conservation (DOC)
- the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish)
- the Ministry of Health (MOH)
These agencies have a memorandum of understanding that sets out how they work together on biosecurity matters. Note that on 1 July 2011, the Ministry of Fisheries merged with MAF. This significantly enhances the Ministry’s ability to deliver high-quality services and support to the whole of the primary sector. It also enables MAF to deliver more integrated strategic advice on long-term economic growth through the sustainable management of natural resources used by the primary sector.
Another agency with biosecurity interests is the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) , which makes decisions on applications to introduce hazardous substances or new organisms, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The Department of Conservation (DOC)
The Department of Conservation is responsible for the conservation of New Zealand's natural and historic heritage. The department manages animal pests, weeds and wildlife diseases across terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments. It does this on public conservation lands (one third of New Zealand's land area), on lands of other tenure where this supports the protection of public conservation lands, and in marine reserves. DOC also has broader marine protection responsibilities for the foreshore and seabed, and marine mammals.
The department's key functions as set out in the Conservation Act are to:
- manage land and other natural and historic resources
- preserve as far as practicable all indigenous freshwater fisheries
- protect recreational fisheries and freshwater habitats
- advocate conservation of natural and historic resources
- promote the benefits of conservation (including in Antarctica and internationally)
- provide conservation information
- foster recreation and allow tourism, to the extent that use is not inconsistent with the conservation of any natural or historic resource.
The Ministry of Health (MOH)
The Ministry of Health maintains a significant role in managing biosecurity health risks. Exotic pests and diseases may cause direct harm to human health – such as injuries caused by biting or stinging pests – or indirect harm – such as the transmission of diseases carried by exotic mosquitoes. Nuisance pests and organisms could become a major drain on the health system if they become established.
The Ministry of Health is accountable for:
- border health protection to meet international health obligations, sea and airport sanitation, surveillance for, and exclusion of rats and mosquitoes at international ports of entry
- post-border surveillance of saltmarsh habitats for new incursions of mosquitoes that pose health risks
- managing nuisance pests under the Health Act.
The ministry also oversees international health regulations, and has responsibilities for assessing and approving medicines, including those containing new organisms, before they enter the New Zealand market under the Medicines Act 1981.
The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish)
As noted, the Ministry of Fisheries merged with MAF on 1 July 2011.
A primary purpose is to ensure that fisheries are sustainably used within a healthy aquatic ecosystem, so there is an interest in any organism that can harm fisheries – for instance, any harmful exotic species that could slip into New Zealand waters through the discharge of ballast water (carried in the base of ships for stability) or as fouling on vessel hulls.
Marine biosecurity accountabilities and functions are also carried out by MAF.
Regional Councils and Local Government
Regional governments have roles as both regulators and deliverers of biosecurity services. The Biosecurity Act 1993 allows regional councils to control pests by developing pest management strategies. These set out the objectives of the strategy, the pests to be managed or eradicated, and the methods of management.
Councils can also consider biosecurity needs during the planning processes under the Resource Management Act 1991 and Local Government Act 2002.
Page last updated: 15 July 2011