Early warning revamp

Published Forestry Bulletin – 5 May 2015

During 2015, forest growers will invest nearly $1 million in levy funds on what is commonly called Forest Health Surveillance(FHS).

FOA biosecurity manager Bill Dyck says we should really be calling this work forestbiosecurity surveillance, but the old name has stuck.

"It provides us with an early warning system should an insect or pathogen breach New Zealand's border biosecurity. Also it enables us to give assurances to trading partners that our forests, and our export products, are free of organisms that they don't want.

"The recent introduction of new molecular technologies at Scion to improve insect and pathogen identification will greatly assist with eradication and control, and in providing greater confidence to our trading partners that we know what bugs we have."

Dyck says that despite having one of the best forest biosecurity surveillance systems in the world, it can never be perfect. So we are constantly striving to improve the FHS programme.

"We are involved in a two-year process involving expertise from New Zealand, Australia and the United States to redesign our system, in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and their high risk site surveillance system," he says.

A major item on the industry's biosecurity agenda is getting a Government-Industry Agreement (GIA) signed. Hopefully this is not too far away, but it depends on MPI agreeing to the funding model proposed by FOA.

GIAs were pioneered in Australia. In the NZ version, each primary industry works with government on a common biosecurity strategy, with both parties having a say on the shape of the strategy as well as paying their share of readiness and response to potential biosecurity threats.

Getting a better understanding of Australian forest industry experience with their GIA is one of five major action points to come out of the 2015 FOA/FFA/MPI Forest Biosecurity Workshop held in Rotorua in March.

With some incursions, such as myrtle rust, the Australian Government has funded 100% of the response. With other incursions it has been less generous, so establishing firm criteria for the level of government response funding is important before the GIA Deed and operational agreements are signed on this side of the Tasman.

It will also be insightful, says Dyck, to see how Australia responds to the recent incursion of giant pine scale, Marchalina hellenica. The FOA Forest Biosecurity Committee is assessing the risk it poses to the NZ plantation forest estate.

Other action points were:

  • Is enough being done to prevent the import of unwanted micro-organisms? Of particular concern are Phytophthora ramorum (also known as sudden oak death and ramorum blight) and Fusarium circinatum, the fungus that causes a serious disease, pine pitch canker.
  • How can we use 'citizen science' to help detect the arrival of unwanted organisms? As with all unwanted organisms, the more eyes that are looking, the earlier it is likely to be detected and the greater the chance of effective control.
  • FHS design: A growing emphasis on high incursion risk areas must not be at the expense of lower-risk areas. Otherwise unwanted organisms may build up to levels that can't be eradicated.
  • Ways to reduce post-border risk: Investigating practical ways to reduce the post-border risk of the transfer of unwanted organisms between forests on vehicles, clothing and plant material.