Working to shore up our defence

We all know good weather is critical for horticulture and farming success, but it’s biosecurity that can change the game in the blink of an eye, and that’s why I’ve been working hard to shore up our defence at the border.

I have a Members’ Bill before the House that would see tougher penalties for those who flout New Zealand’s biosecurity laws.

It’s my hope that this bill — The Increased Penalties for Breach of Biosecurity Bill — will serve as a deterrent to those considering bringing undeclared goods into New Zealand.

The changes I’ve put forward would see the immediate penalty for making a false declaration increase from $400 to $1000, the conviction fine double to $2000, and give immigration officers greater powers to refuse entry to visa holders who breach biosecurity laws.

We’ve all seen TV programmes where people tick the box on the arrivals card saying they don’t have anything to declare, yet when quarantine officers check their baggage, all sorts of weird and not›so›wonderful things are discovered that could pose a significant risk.

This bill recognises the seriousness of breaching biosecurity rules.

The most recent MPI forecast showed New Zealand horticulture export revenue is expected to increase 9% to $7.3 billion in the year to June 30, 2023.

Dairy is expected to sit at $21 billion, meat and wool $11 billion and other primary exports $3 billion.

The last thing we want to see is crops wiped out and exports stopped, all because an individual has brought in prohibited items that carry disease.

It’s only right that those who intentionally contravene our biosecurity laws face a large fine or the prospect of being put on the next plane back to where they came from.

The Queensland fruit fly scare on Auckland’s North Shore in 2019, which resulted in an almost year-long biosecurity operation costing $18 million, showed how serious border incursions can be.

In that instance, 80% of New Zealand’s horticulture crops would have been susceptible to attack if the fruit flies had made it beyond our largest city.

Fruits would have been inedible, and trade restrictions put in place.

The bill I’ve introduced won’t prevent all border breaches, but it will help strengthen our laws.

The bill passed its first reading in the House a couple of weeks ago with cross-party support from all sides — except the Greens. It will now go before the primary production committee for feedback before it has a second reading.

I love knowing that produce from Central Otago orchards and paddocks is being enjoyed here in New Zealand and all over the world — let’s keep it that way.