25 Aug 2003
The decision by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to inspect all sea containers arriving in New Zealand has been praised by the NZ Forest Owners Association.
The association is also comfortable with inspection being carried out by a MAF-accredited person, instead of a MAF employee.
"The most important thing is that the job is done properly," said Rob McLagan, the association's chief executive.
"Containers are one of the main pathways by which diseases and pests are introduced to New Zealand. The decision to inspect all containers, rather than just those from ports which are deemed to be of high-risk, is a big step forward.
"Last year, gypsy moth, fall webworm and gum leaf skeletoniser were revealed to be unwanted immigrants to New Zealand. All are likely to have arrived here on or in containers."
He said it was impractical to have every container inspected by a government employee, but the onus was still on MAF to ensure that accredited inspectors were up-to-the-mark.
"There will always be a commercial imperative for importers to get containers unpacked as quickly as possible. There will always be the temptation to cut corners.
"It is therefore vitally important to ensure that inspectors and their employers are heavily penalised if they fail to observe proper procedures. Accreditation will also need to involve proper training, retraining and monitoring."
Mr McLagan said forest products were expected to become the country's largest export by 2025. At that time, forest export revenues are expected to reach $20 billion.
"We're talking of an industry that's worth a huge amount to New Zealand, economically, environmentally, socially and in terms of employment opportunities. It's worth protecting."