22 Feb 2019

More ways to fund biosecurity needed, says government

4:17 pm on 22 February 2019

The Government says more ways to pay for biosecurity need to be looked at, but no details have been given.

Biosecurity sign, Auckland Airport.

More ways are needed to pay for biosecurity are needed, but agricultural groups say a levy on their sector would add to the costs they already face. Photo: RNZ

The comments follow debate about the merits of a putting a levy on agricultural sectors such as horticulture.

This would help pay for the growing costs of fighting off bugs and diseases that could badly harm New Zealand's economy.

It would be similar in methodology to an insurance scheme.

Agricultural groups are worried about the chance of this happening, saying it would add considerably to the costs they already face.

The National Party's agricultural spokesman Nathan Guy raised the issue in parliament yesterday.

Nathan Guy

National Party agricultural spokesman Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He asked about officials providing advice for an EQC-style scheme to pay for biosecurity, funded by growers.

"This is on top of a Government Industry Agreement where 18 primary sector groups have come together to work with the government on biosecurity preparedness and response.

Mr Guy said he was alarmed to hear about it on the same day the Tax Working Group proposed other taxes on farmers.

"I am sure this will be resisted by farmers with every bone in their body."

Damien O'Connor during caucus run 1.03.16

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

In response, the Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor told the house there needed to be work on this matter, to improve existing funding methods for protecting agriculture from harmful incursions.

"At the moment the incursions we are managing are all being funded by the taxpayer," he said.

"It is important that we look to the future to ensure protection for the industry and for taxpayers in a world of increasing biosecurity risks."

No further information was given.

However, the government is known to be worried about this.

The debate has happened as a campaign against fruit flies is underway in Auckland.

In addition, a lawsuit headed for the Court of Appeal could land the Crown with a bill for at least $450 million over the arrival of the Kiwifruit disease PSA in 2009.

The state is also funding the lion's share of the fight against Mycoplasma bovis.

Future, unknown pests would add extra costs.

The Finance Minister Grant Robertson mentioned biosecurity risks last year as one reason for bringing in a restrained budget in May.

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