Biosecurity Review

I have been putting this off, but the time has come.  While the furore over the EFB continues, this little gem has raised its ugly head.

http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/files/strategy/consultation/joint-decision-making.pdf

More commonly known as BiosecurityNew Zealand’s “Joint Decision-Making and Resourcing for Readiness and Incursion Responses”. (You still awake?)

This is the discussion document that shows how a government can create two classes of citizens.  Those peoples that are protected under the Biosecurity Act 1993 through contributions through their taxes; and those that have to pay additional monies to be heard and protected i.e. the agricultural, forestry, and horticultural sectors.

Background: Biosecurity New Zealand divides their roles for managing incursions (entry of unwanted pests into the country) into four distinct groups.

  1. Reduction: Pre-border and border activities
  2. Readiness: Preparedness to manage an incursion
  3. Response: Fairly self explanatory
  4. Recovery: regeneration after an incursion

In 2005 the Government agreed to a set of principles from the “Future Funding of Biosecurity Services” paper.

http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/bio-strategy/papers/biosecurity-funding-review.htm#P147_11406

It notes

The review does not recommend sweeping chagnes to existing biosecurity funding arrangemenst.  The revidew foung the Crown to remain the most appropriate funder of many services, largely because most have substantial public good components, whether it is for public health, conservation or environmental reasons.  The review also found that most industry cost-recovery regimes already in place (e.g. in cargo clearance) should continue.

The review has, however, indentified a number of areas where new or more robust industry cost-recovery arrangmeents would be more appropriate in the future.  In most cases, greater involvement by industry in the prioritisation and/or management of such services also seems desirable.  The review recommends changes to the way in which:

import health standards are funded and managed; and

surveillance programmes and related incursion responses for target pests/diseases are funded and managed.

What it is basically saying is that we are going to consult with the agricultura, foresty, and horticultural communities on issue surrounding the biosecurity of their crops but we are going to charge them more for the priviledge and to protect them.

The discussion document:  I read this the other day and it is a habit of mine to use alot of highlighter  when reading government papers.  Red ink ran rampant.

Some pearlers…

In the past, a hierachy has been applied to determine who should pay, with funding by exacerbators preferred, followed by beneficiary funding, with Crown funding as a last resort.  The Biosecurity Funding Review critiques this approach noting that:

  • charging exacerbators is often inefficient since exacerbators can often do little to reduce the risk of their activity and often have no control over the services actually delivered;
  • beneficiaries are often better placed to pay because they can determine if the service provides net benefits and they are better placed to monitor if delivery of the service is satisfactory; and
  • distinguishing between groups can be difficult – one party may play more than one role, for example, the Crown is often an exacerbator, a beneficiary, and a potential funder of last resort.

You can read this as…it is too difficult to get the money out of the perpetrator so we will charge the people who are at risk or…

Direct beneficiaries are more likely than exacerbators (e.g. importers) to want to be ‘at the table’ making the important decisions about readiness and response activites

No shit Sherlock, the ‘beneficiaries’ livelihood are at risk and just becasue it’s going be easier to get the money out of them doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go about it.

An excellent point surrounding this review is that the government have noted that sectors which incursions affect have knowledge surrounding such incursions and that these knowledge can play a significant part in formulating policy surrounding the biosecurity of New Zealand.

Also, MAF does not always have access to the same expertise that industries do, but with MAG and industries making key decisions jointly, a wider range of skills and expertise will inform incursion management

Except to have a say; you have to pay.

So how will it work? There are several key quotes within the report that give us a general idea on how the government are thinking on this one…

Resource contributions from Government and industries would be based on relative public and private benefits.

That is, if the vast majority of the benefits are public then the government (our taxes) will pick up 100% of those costs. An examply of such an incursion is a mosquito that carries a virus that causes human health issues.  This is a good policy 🙂

However if the majority of the beneifts are private benefits (also taxpayers) then it is proposed that, that industry cover 100% of those costs, e.g. Plum Pox (yes this affects plums) or even the devastating grapevine pest the Glassey Winged Sharpshooter.

There are scales in between but it is odd that the government can categorize all tax paying New Zealanders into two classes and then differentiate biosecurity protection accordingly.  Remember we all pay taxes and are protected under the Biosecurity Act; and those who are at risk, don’t exacerbate the risk.

Another worrying notion is the concept of ‘nationally significant threats’.  This is theme (alongside the ‘if you want a say, you have to pay theme) is found through out the report, e.g.

The new draft policy emphasises that MAF will respond where risk organisms pose nationally significant threats to New Zealand’s people, environment, and economy

MAF may contribute to responses where risk orgnaisms are not nationally signficant, on a case by case basis, where those benefiting from the response also contribute resources

In order for there to be enough incentive for the Government ( emphasis added) to participate, these responses are more likely to be at a national level; although regional responses could also be significant enough to warrant consideration.

Where a risk organism is considered of national importance, but its current distribution or impacts mean a local or long-term response is appropriate, MAF will work with other parties to identify who is the most appropriat agency to co-ordinate and lead a response. This could be a regional council or specific industry sector. However, MAF cannot compel other entities to undertake a response.

So to all you niche growers out there, be it macadamia nuts, alpacas, or saffron, an incursion that affects only your business and does not impact on New Zealands people environment and/or economy, you may well be on your own.

It should be noted that ‘Resources’ is not define solely as monies however recent the report specifically highlights the cost of recent incursions; they are all 7+ figure sums. I am sure macadamia industry could not cope with too big a portion of that, but because it would be 100% ‘private’ benefit, they would be liable for 100%.

It should also be noted that this document was put together afte consultation with an industry working group however the group have noted

MAF is legislatively accountable for the biosecurity system

and

Industry organisations will be able to take on varying responsibilities although few, if any, will be able to take on all the tasks neede for an incursion response.

I believe this document is an attempt, by the government, to absolve itself of the responsibility it has to all its peoples, public and ‘private’.

Under the Biosecurity Act everyone is protected, however the government have singled out industries that they say have to contirbute yet further resources to be protected.  If they don’t pay they a) don’t have a say even though they have recognised expertise surrounding their industry and b) if they don’t pay they may not be protected.

I must go an look up the meaning of extortion.

Submission close on Friday the 14th of December.

MAF also have “Policy for responding to pests and diseases (risk organisms)” up for discussion.  More on this later.

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