Frequently Asked Questions

Could didymo spread to lakes throughout New Zealand?

Yes. Although didymo prefers a river environment with clear water flowing over stable substrate at depths sufficient for light penetration to drive photosynthesis, blooms have been found in South Island Lakes. Lake Wakatipu, for example, contains visible didymo on some parts of the lake shore.

How much lucerne/alfalfa seed does New Zealand import?

Most imported seed is grown into pasture or lucerne hay for feeding livestock. A smaller proportion is sprouted as alfalfa sprouts for human consumption.

In 2005, New Zealand imported approximately 37,000 kg of lucerne seed for sowing and approximately 9, 000 kg seed for sprouting.

  Seed for Sowing Seed for Sprouting
  1 July ‘04- 30 June ‘05 1 July ‘04- 30 June ‘05
Exporting country Weight (kg) Proportion (%) Weight (kg) Proportion (%)
United States of America 25 000 66.5% 2 720 29.5%
Australia 10 410 27.5% 6 500 70.5%
Italy 2 200 6%    
TOTAL 37 610
  9 220  

How did Varroa get to New Zealand?

It is unknown how the mite arrived in New Zealand. Varroa is usually spread by live bees, and there have been no live bee imports permitted into New Zealand for at least 40 years. Varroa probably arrived either with an illegal introduction of queen bees from a varroa-infested country, or in a bee colony or swarm that established on or in a shipping container and survived the journey to New Zealand without detection.

Can I bring in Christmas or wedding cake into New Zealand?

Yes. Cooked items such as cakes are of no quarantine significance.

What happens to a detector dog when it retires?

Most of the handlers will take their operational dogs home as pets when they retire from active duties, however if the handlers are unable to keep their dogs then they are offered back to their original puppy walking families. A number of these families have waited patiently until their dogs retirement. There is also a large list of eager people wanting to take the retired dogs home.

All the prospective homes are thoroughly checked and the dogs then placed with their new families on the understanding that if there are any problems the dogs may be returned. So far none of the retired dogs have been returned and all lead a very happy and well earned retirement with their new families

Who nominates when the PCN soil survey is undertaken and how do they do this?

The grower decides what surveys are needed. We have now updated the registration form to allow the grower to nominate the type of survey required for each production being registered.

What did New Zealand do about the British atypical scrapie finds?

In the wake of the finds, MAFBNZ traced all the flocks that had contributed to the original consignment of research sheep sent to the UK. Historical samples from these flocks were examined, and sheep from two of the larger flocks that contained higher numbers of older sheep were tested for atypical scrapie. No evidence of atypical scrapie was found.

How do we think the fly got there?

We don’t know and may never know for sure. It is typically moved within fresh fruit.

Who will be affected by the seed testing protocol if it is implemented?

Importers of viable lucerne seed for producing animal feed and alfalfa seed for human consumption will be affected.

MAF would like to hear feedback from people who have an interest in, or would be affected by, the seed testing protocol. The protocol would be put in place by amending the existing Import Health Standards for Medicago sativa ( Seed for Sowing and Importation of Grains/Seeds for Consumption, Feed or Processing – Plant Health Requirements).

Why do we believe New Zealand is free from TSEs?

New Zealand is recognized as free from scrapie by the European Commission. Scrapie was detected in imported sheep in the 1950s when the disease was eradicated by slaughtering and disposing of all in-contact sheep and resting or destocking pastures. Another incident occurred in the 1970s when the sheep concerned were still held in quarantine. The animals were euthanased and their carcasses burnt.

BSE has never been reported or recorded in NZ.

Since 1952, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has undertaken surveillance for Scrapie.

Since 1990, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has undertaken active surveillance for scrapie, BSE and chronic wasting disease in deer.

Since the mid 1950s, only Australian meat and bone meal that has been heat-treated and accompanied by a valid import permit, has been permitted entry to New Zealand. N.B Australia is also free of BSE and scrapie. This material was not imported for use as feed.

The absence of scrapie, BSE and New Zealand's grass-fed, pasture-based farming systems ensures there is an extremely low likelihood of BSE entering the cattle population, simply because cattle are not feed formulated rations in feed lots. This fact is recognised by the EU Scientific Steering Committee which has categorised New Zealand highly unlikely to have cattle clinically or pre-clinically infected with BSE. .

In addition a voluntary ban was introduced on the feeding of ruminant-derived protein except milk for calves to all ruminants. This was followed by comprehensive legislation banning the feeding of ruminant protein to ruminants including spreading of meat and bone meal on pasture as fertilizer, which took effect from 1 Jan 2000.

Since 1990, the Ministry of Agriculture's active surveillance program has included:

  • In 1988, a retrospective study of fixed adult bovine brain sections held in animal pathology laboratories was under taken for histopathological evidence of BSE. A total of 50 brains was examined and no lesions were found suggestive of BSE.
  • An active education program to inform veterinarians, farmers and others of the clinical signs associated with TSEs
  • A financial credit to those who submit for laboratory examination brains from sheep, goats, cattle or deer exhibiting signs of progressive central nervous system disease. From 1996 to 2000 almost 700 brains have been tested under such a program with no evidence of any TSE being found.
  • Monitoring of the 13 cattle imported from the UK between 1982 and 1988. All are now dead.
  • From January 1990 to December 2002 diagnostic vets screened 6,576 cases presenting clinical signs of nervous disease in cattle. In 1998 an additional 1,009 brains for clinically normal cattle aged 4 years and older were screen for histopathological lesions of BSE. None were found.