Statement from NZ Labour Party
News that a biosecurity sniffer dog and its handler will be stationed at Wellington International Airport from next month is hardly cause for the agricultural sector to start popping the champagne corks, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.
“When Wellington lost its two detector dogs and handlers in October 2011, David Carter promised they would be replaced quickly.
“However written questions to Mr Carter show that the first replacement isn’t due to start until next month, meaning our third busiest airport has had no biosecurity protection for more than a year.
“Mr Carter says dogs from other Primary Industry sites have been called in at ‘high volume’ times, such as school holidays. Big deal. He knows as well as anyone that biosecurity breaches can happen at any time.
“Effectively there has been no protection at Wellington for 14 months and that’s left the new Zealand economy and ecosystems at unnecessary risk.
“The fact that it has taken so long to recruit and train just one handler and dog – half the number needed – is also a concern. Growers can only hope that the recruitment process for another officer, which Mr Carter says is underway, doesn’t drag on in similar fashion.
“The PSA outbreak has shown just how costly pest incursions can be. The Minister needs to start taking his responsibility to protect our borders seriously,” said Damien O’Connor.