Forest Bug-Watch Revamp

Published Forestry Bulletin – 24 June 2014

The forest health surveillance (FHS) programme is being completely redesigned, with the new scheme expected to go live in mid-2016. Since 1 January 2014 the FHS has been wholly funded by the new commodity levy for the benefit of the whole industry. Previously it was funded by a voluntary levy paid by nearly all Forest Owners Association (FOA) members.

 The new funding regime provides an opportunity to fully review the scheme, explains forest biosecurity committee chair Dave Cormack. He says that while the scheme is well regarded internationally, it is not as scientifically robust as it needs to be.

“We want to give trading partners and forest investors greater confidence that New Zealand’s forests are safe from exotic pest and disease incursions.”

Until the end of 2013, around two-thirds of New Zealand’s forest plantation area was monitored for biosecurity threats as part of the FOA’s voluntary FHS programme. The proposed new programme promises more focus on areas of high risk and better integration with MPI’s biosecurity systems.

“Data from both the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) High Risk Surveillance Sites (HRSS) system and the FOA’s FHS activity will be analysed to design a new scientifically valid, statistically solid, cost-effective – and future-proofed – programme, before extending it throughout the country.”

According to Cormack, going nationwide makes sense as incursions don’t necessarily start in your own plantation.

“It might start in your neighbour’s or even in the public park down the road. It’s much better to detect and fight the forest fire while it is still small and in your neighbour’s forest than it is to wait until it gets into yours,” he says.

The redesign will take two years, with the new programme expected to be implemented from July 2016.

“In the meantime there won’t be too much change. We may initially see more intensive high risk plots added to the current programme. Also, depending on how the statistical modelling goes, annual visits to some forests may no longer be needed.”

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