Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of addressing the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute Conference.
The Institute is marking July as Biosecurity month. While I consider every month should be Biosecurity month, I support any effort made to raise the profile of this work and celebrate the successes achieved.
A great deal of noise is made about the risks of biosecurity breaches, but little is made of the success stories.
Only a couple of weeks ago, MAF made a significant interception at the border when fruit flies were brought in by an incoming traveller. Yet the news received scant attention in the media. A pity.
The fact is the international environment in which we trade and travel is changing and becoming increasingly complex.
New Zealand producers face many threats which is why our biosecurity system must adapt to change.
Our multi-layered system works on three fronts: working overseas to stop traders and travellers from bringing pests here; working at the border to identify and eliminate pests that do arrive; and working in New Zealand to find, manage or eliminate pests that have established here.
The Government is committed to making every step of the biosecurity system more effective and efficient.
Significant work is underway within MAF to deliver a new border system that will continue to protect New Zealand, while still facilitating trade and travel.
The modern border system is about collaboration across border agencies, and better use of information and technology to enable effective risk profiling and the targeting of resources to areas of greatest risk and importance.
The Government is spending $75 million to develop the first stage of a joint border management system (JBMS) designed to significantly improve border processing for New Zealand traders and travellers, and to make border agencies more efficient.
Stage one will include what is called the Trade Single Window (TSW), which will ultimately enable exporters, importers and others involved in trade to complete all their border compliance requirements online through a single point of electronic contact.
We are also changing the way we prepare and respond to biosecurity threats that arrive here by targeting activities at the areas that pose the greatest risk.
To do this, MAF is seeking greater industry and grower involvement in biosecurity preparedness and response.
There's no better example of this collaborative way of working than the recent Psa outbreak.
The discovery of Psa has had significant consequences for the kiwifruit industry.
The response demonstrates that industry and Government can, and must, work together to achieve the best possible results and limit the spread of this disease.
This sort of collaboration is where the proposed Government Industry Agreements come in.
GIAs are about strengthening New Zealand's biosecurity readiness and response, through industry and government jointly sharing decisions and costs when responding to incursions of harmful pests and diseases.
I want to commend Horticulture New Zealand on the practical and commonsense approach you, as an organisation, have taken to the discussions on GIAs.
Strengthened partnerships between industry and government will lead to better results in dealing with incursions of pests and diseases.
This is why the Government, in discussion with industry, has agreed to meet a minimum cost share of 50 percent for priority readiness and response programmes.
It's important to remember, though, that the GIA initiative is still in the consultation phase and I urge Horticulture New Zealand to continue your discussions with MAF and work through any remaining issues.
Before I leave the topic of biosecurity, I want to mention the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee. This is a group you may not have heard of that gives me direct, and completely independent, advice on the performance of our biosecurity system.