Friday, 10 May 2019 09:27

Border biosecurity need tech upgrade

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
MPI director-general Ray Smith. MPI director-general Ray Smith.

A review of biosecurity controls at New Zealand borders recommends continuously adapting new technology.

The review was commissioned by MPI director-general Ray Smith after fruit fly was detected in Auckland earlier this year. Australian biosecurity expert Rob Delane did the review.

Smith says it is pleasing to see that the review found overall border protection services in mail and passenger pathways are world-class and they protect New Zealand well.

But it notes significant challenges to NZ’s border and urges ongoing tactical and strategic improvement.

“To that end, a number of recommendations are made that I will ask Biosecurity New Zealand to carefully consider,” says Smith.

Importantly, MPI must equip with new technology to ensure its border systems keep up with rapid changes in travel and trade.

“The findings support our work to develop new baggage scanning technology, recommending that we move quickly to use real time tomography to scan all baggage at Auckland Airport,” says Smith.

“We are well advanced in developing a prototype scanner that can automatically detect goods that pose biosecurity risk. Earlier this month, officers detected an egg in a suitcase shortly after the installation of the first version of software specially designed for biosecurity.”

Interestingly, the review makes no case for additional detector dogs but suggests other changes would lead to more effective use of our existing dogs. And it recommends finding ways to fast-track low risk passengers through airport processes, something MPI is keen to talk further about with airlines and airports.

“But our bottom line will always be that biosecurity cannot be compromised,” he says.

Controls back in place

Controls on the movement of fruit and vegetables in the Auckland suburb of Northcote are back following the detection of another Queensland fruit fly.

A single male fruit fly was found in one of the network of traps remaining in place following the discovery of six other fruit flies in the area between February 20 and March 14.

The previous restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables were lifted in April, although additional surveillance was kept as a precaution.

“This latest fly was found 185m from the edge of the previous control zone A, and 460m from where a cluster of male flies was found,” says Biosecurity New Zealand spokeswoman Catherine Duthie.

“Despite this latest find there is still no evidence of a breeding population.”

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