Part 4: Arrangements for Managing Biosecurity Risks

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry: Management of Biosecurity Risks.

In this Part we identify:

We also assess the adequacy of the governance arrangements.

How Is the Management of Biosecurity Risks Funded?

Key Findings

The management of biosecurity risks is funded through Votes Biosecurity. The four main departments each have a share of Votes Biosecurity, with MAF receiving 93% of the total funding.

The departments can find it difficult to agree relative priorities for biosecurity activities. A particular complication is the need for them sometimes to consider and prioritise biosecurity activities against the other (non-biosecurity) activities for which they are responsible. It is not always clear against which other activities funding requests could (or should) be prioritised.

Little systematic analysis, including financial analysis, is undertaken of the relative benefits of different components of the Biosecurity Programme.

We found no evidence that the lack of a specific incursion response fund directly compromised any of the incursion responses we examined. However, departments need to follow a complex process in order to prepare a response recommendation and seek additional funding – the analysis required is inevitably resource-intensive and timeconsuming. And to get the best trade-off between quality and comprehensiveness of information and speed of response, close and effective communication is needed between departments and with others such as the Treasury.

The Treasury and MoH disagree on whether the southern saltmarsh mosquito incursion should be treated as a health or biosecurity issue. We believe that there is a strong case for assessing all biosecurity risks on the same basis, regardless of the sector under threat. It is also an important principle that decisions about relative priorities should be transparent – and to be transparent the decision-makers (Ministers) need access to full and consistent information and analysis.

Revenue for funding the costs of biosecurity activities comes from:

  • the Crown;
  • regional rates (for specific measures such as pest management strategies); and
  • in some cases, from the recovery of costs from those who either –
  • give rise to the need for a biosecurity service – for example, importers of goods that have associated biosecurity risks; or
  • benefit from biosecurity services – for example, exporters who benefit from having biosecurity risks to their crops effectively managed.

Crown funding for biosecurity is allocated in Votes Biosecurity for the four main departments with biosecurity responsibilities. Figure 4 on the opposite page shows the allocations for 2001-02.7 As the lead department, MAF receives the largest share of funding.

Figure 4
Allocation of Votes Biosecurity 2001-02


Figures are the cumulative Votes for 2001-02. Source: The Supplementary Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ending 30 June 2002.

The MAF funding is managed by one of its business groups – MAF Biosecurity.

Our review of the funding arrangements led us to look at two aspects in detail:

  • how funding priorities are set; and
  • how funds for incursion responses are obtained.

Setting Funding Priorities

MAF Biosecurity allocates resources between the different components of the Biosecurity Programme on an historical basis, with adjustments for changes in needs and activity. For example, substantial additional funding has been allocated to border inspection activities in recent years. Such funding changes have been made without any systematic review of the relative biosecurity benefits. Similarly, there has been no systematic review of the priorities for biosecurity funding between sectors (e.g. the plant, animal, forestry, conservation, and marine sectors).

One role of the Biosecurity Technical Forum (a subcommittee of the Biosecurity Council – see paragraph 4.93 on page 66) is to prioritise new initiative bids between the departments. However, we understand that this role has been undermined because new initiative bids have been repeatedly assessed outside the agreed process.

The work done to develop the Biosecurity Strategy (see paragraphs 4.99-4.100 on page 68) has provided a range of views and information on biosecurity activities (from, for example, a review of surveillance) that should enable an assessment to be made of whether the current allocation of funding between the four main departments is appropriate.

The departments need to be able to respond quickly when a pest or disease incursion is identified. The department concerned must seek Cabinet approval to transfer funds between the different output classes of Votes Biosecurity, or to make use of unspent funds from other non-biosecurity appropriations. Funding an incursion response can therefore have a significant impact on other departmental activities.

However, each of the departments is quite differently placed to respond to an incursion. MAF has the largest allocation of Votes Biosecurity (93% of the total in 2001-02), which should give it some ability to adjust its activities to fund an incursion response. Nevertheless, MAF’s ability to do this is limited by the fact that most of its biosecurity funds are already committed in contracts.

Departments other than MAF, particularly MoH, have even less scope to fund a response by changing their biosecurity spending priorities. Those departments with a small biosecurity budget inevitably face difficulties in having available funds for biosecurity activities or making use of unspent funds from other non-biosecurity appropriations.

For 2000-01, MoH was originally appropriated only $149,000 for the provision of policy advice and scientific support on public health related biosecurity matters. The additional funding of $1,448,000 for MOH’s response to the incursion of the southern saltmarsh mosquito in that year was partly found by Cabinet agreeing to the transfer of appropriations from Vote Health to Votes Biosecurity-Health at the expense of planned public health activities (a smoking cessation programme).

Obtaining Funds for Incursion Responses

If necessary, MAF and the other departments can ask Cabinet to approve additional spending, and/or the transfer of funds, for an incursion response (as in the MOH case quoted above). Figure 5 on the next page shows that the process required to prepare a proposal for Cabinet on funding for additional response measures is complex. It usually involves a good deal of work for a wide range of people, who need to collect sufficient information to adequately assess:

  • the risks and impacts of the incursion;
  • the costs and benefits of mounting a response; and
  • what kind of response (e.g. control/containment or eradication) is likely to give the most cost-effective outcome.

Speed of response can be critical. For example, for many pests the chance of successful eradication will depend on how quickly the decision to eradicate is taken. It may be necessary to make a trade-off between the quality and comprehensiveness of the information collected and the speed of response. The need to make such a trade-off will be different for every incursion that occurs. It is the responsibility of the relevant Chief Technical Officer, based on advice received from the Technical Advisory Group, to make a judgement about whether and, if so, when a trade-off should be made.

Figure 5
The Process for Obtaining Funds for an Incursion Response


It is vital that decisions, and subsequent response action, can be taken swiftly where delays in action could compromise the type and effectiveness of any response measures taken. Once decisions have been taken, it is equally important that they should be revisited promptly should any key assumptions or risks change.

Southern Saltmarsh Mosquito – A Health or Biosecurity Risk?

Under current arrangements, it is not always clear against which other initiatives bids for incursion response funding could (or should) be prioritised. In the case of the response to the southern saltmarsh mosquito, the Treasury and MoH disagree over whether the incursion should have been treated as a health risk or a biosecurity risk.

The Treasury views the incursion in the context of the desired health outcome – to mitigate the risk of the mosquito spreading Ross River virus. Therefore, the Treasury’s health team (rather than its biosecurity team) analysed MoH’s bid relating to the mosquito and the team prioritised the bid against other health programmes.

MoH views the southern saltmarsh mosquito as a biosecurity issue, because the Biosecurity Act, not the Health Act, covers any response to this pest. MoH feels that it should have been assessed against other biosecurity priorities, which would also have enabled non-health impacts (for example, property values) to be included in the assessment.

Treating the mosquito as a health issue has important practical implications. Assessed against other health priorities, and given high competing pressures on the health budget, it is unlikely that eradication of the mosquito would be justified. It also raises the question whether other incursion responses that have clear health implications but happen to lie with MAF should be assessed in the same way.

The mosquito response was not assessed against other biosecurity priorities. However, it is possible – indeed (in our view) quite likely – that such an assessment would have resulted in it being given a different priority, on the basis of biosecurity risks and priorities at the time. There is, thus, a real possibility that, purely by virtue of the different means by which they are assessed, biosecurity threats to human health will receive a different priority from threats to animal health or to native flora and fauna.

Therefore, we take the view that the priority for responses against incursions such as the southern saltmarsh mosquito should be assessed on the same basis as other biosecurity priorities (such as the response to the painted apple moth). Human health would still be an important factor in the assessment – as it would be in the assessment of the priority for some other incursion responses managed by MAF. But using the same process would enable the decision-makers (Ministers) to consider them against other biosecurity-related impacts, such as risks to animal health or to native flora and fauna.

If an outbreak of Ross River virus occurred, management of such an outbreak and its consequences would be treated as a health issue.

Is There a Case for an Incursion Response Fund?

Feedback to the Biosecurity Strategy Development Team (see paragraph 4.99 on page 68) indicated that many stakeholders felt that an incursion response fund was required to ensure that departments could get swift access to the money needed for incursion responses. Such a fund would have the advantage of providing ready access to the money.

However, the Treasury is not in favour of a dedicated incursion response fund because it could:

  • limit the opportunity for Ministerial involvement in determining how incursion responses would proceed;
  • limit the potential for the Government to consider the priorities of biosecurity measures alongside other spending priorities;
  • reduce the scrutiny of expenditure proposals through measures such as economic impact assessment and cost benefit analysis; and
  • be difficult to determine how large the fund should be.

Some of these limitations could be overcome by having pre-conditions that would have to be met before the fund could be accessed. However, on balance, we agree with the Treasury that the limitations of an incursion response fund could outweigh the benefits. Moreover, we found no evidence that the absence of a fund had directly hindered departments’ ability to respond to incursions.

However, under the current response funding arrangements a department can spend several months preparing detailed papers for Cabinet approval, and may have to seek further approval if it wishes to alter the nature of the response at a later date. In our view, for these arrangements to work well requires close and effective communication between departments and with others such as the Treasury.

Particularly in the absence of an incursion response fund, an agreed and documented process is needed that departments must follow:

  • in providing the information that Cabinet requires to make funding decisions; and
  • to revisit the decisions promptly when circumstances change.

Such a process would be particularly helpful to departments like MoH that are less frequently required to seek additional funding for an incursion response.

Other Possible Approaches to Funding Incursion Responses

The circumstances in which the Ministry of Civil Defence must seek funding for emergency disaster relief activities are similar to those of a biosecurity incursion response. Both involve a short response time and unknown funding needs.

In July 1993, Cabinet confirmed that the Prime Minister may authorise expenditure for Civil Defence emergencies and agricultural disasters of national significance, subject to subsequent notification to Cabinet.8 It is likely that this funding arrangement would be implemented during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

Emergency funding to clear up an oil spill is immediately available from an Oil Pollution Fund collected from a special levy on the fishing, shipping, and oil production industries.9 If additional funds are required to clean up an oil spill, emergency access to Crown funding has been arranged by the relevant central government agencies. This part of the arrangements for funding to clear up oil spills could be applied to funding for biosecurity incursion responses.

Australia has a similar funding arrangement for pest and disease incursions – which includes the agreed levels of funding that will be contributed by the Government and industry groups in the event of an incursion. For example, an arrangement exists for foot and mouth disease whereby the Government has agreed to pay 80%, and the livestock industry 20% of costs in the event of an incursion. The Australian model also classifies specific diseases into one of four categories depending on the potential impact the diseases might have on public health, the environment, and primary production industries.

There may be benefit in MAF Biosecurity and the Treasury working together to identify whether any features of these arrangements could usefully be adapted for the purposes of making funds available for urgent incursion responses.


The main departments and the Treasury should develop an agreed, common framework for analysing the benefits and costs of:

  • different categories of preventative measures (e.g. pre-border, border, and post-border security) to address biosecurity risk; and
  • targeting resources at different biosecurity risks.

All incursions that present biosecurity risks should be prioritised on a consistent basis, irrespective of which department is managing the response to the incursion and the main sector under threat. Comparisons of relative priorities should be presented in a transparent way, including both:

  • intra-sectoral comparisons (e.g. the potential threat to human health from mosquitoes compared with other health priorities); and
  • inter-sectoral comparisons (e.g. comparing the response to the incursion of the southern saltmarsh mosquito against that for the painted apple moth).

The Treasury and the main departments that may need to apply for additional biosecurity funding for new incursion responses should agree a process for the actions required to prepare response recommendations before new funds can be sought. This process should include clear time-lines, be documented, pre-agreed, and well communicated. Once completed, the Treasury and the departments should ensure that they have a clear, shared understanding about what process will be followed should any of the key assumptions or risks subsequently change.

MAF Biosecurity, together with the Treasury and the other main departments, should take the opportunity provided by the development of the Biosecurity Strategy to review the Biosecurity Programme to ensure that the balance in emphasis and funding between the different components is appropriate.

How Are Biosecurity Responsibilities Co-ordinated?

Key Findings

For some pests and diseases it is obvious which department should have responsibility for managing the threat that the pest or disease poses. But for others the responsibility for managing the threat is less clear. As the department with the most funding for biosecurity, MAF tends to take responsibility, even though the main threat may not be to the sectors of greatest concern to MAF.

Co-ordination of biosecurity activities between the four main departments is improving. Recently signed memoranda of understanding should help to clarify the relationship between, and allocation of biosecurity responsibilities to, the departments.

However, we noted some failures. For example, minutes have not been taken of key inter-departmental meetings – which has caused confusion about how decisions have been reached. And interdepartmental contact is, in our view, insufficient to ensure that the departments involved are working together on the issues affecting them.

There are currently no clear joint goals or outcomes for biosecurity. The Biosecurity Strategy is expected to include a statement on the appropriate level of protection against biosecurity risks.

The business groups within MAF Biosecurity – concerned with animals, plants, and forests – need to be better co-ordinated to make the most of the groups’ combined capabilities.

Biosecurity risk management is complex and requires careful co-ordination. A single pest or disease will often pose wide-ranging risks to biosecurity – with consequences for flora and fauna, public health, farming, tourism, and other commercial activities. The range of potential consequences of pests and diseases demands a co-ordinated response to incursions, effective collaboration, and consultation.

In managing biosecurity risks, it is important that the roles and responsibilities of the various organisations involved are clear. Without a shared understanding of these roles and responsibilities:

  • there is scope for departments to duplicate their efforts, or for some aspects of biosecurity risk management to be overlooked;
  • processes can become confused; and
  • decisions taken, and the rationale for those decisions, can be unclear.

Ultimately, New Zealand’s strong reputation overseas for professionally credible and effective biosecurity arrangements relies on effective collaboration between all the agencies involved.

We assessed whether:

  • roles and responsibilities were clear and well understood; and
  • biosecurity activities were effectively co-ordinated.

Roles and Responsibilities

MAF is responsible for managing risks to biosecurity posed by people and products entering the country and the pathways that they follow.

Deciding which department should have responsibility for managing a response once an incursion has been identified is not always so straightforward. Foot and mouth is an example of a disease for which responsibility is clear – the disease is primarily a threat to the agricultural sector, making MAF responsible for managing the risks. However:

  • some pests may affect more than one sector; and
  • some commodities may carry pests that pose a variety of risks – such as to the conservation estate, public health, and agriculture.

The difficulties in managing sources of incursions potentially affecting more than one sector are illustrated in our case study on the importation of Californian table grapes (see Case Studies, pages 5-25). Pests entering the country with table grapes are of concern to:

  • MAF and the wine industry – in the case of the glassy-winged sharpshooter; and
  • MoH and DOC – in the case of black widow spiders.

Figure 6
Biosecurity Risk Management Responsibilities of the Four Main Departments


No framework was in place to allocate responsibility in such instances, though memoranda of understanding signed in July 2001 have helped to clarify roles and responsibilities. However:

  • Having the majority of biosecurity funding, MAF tends to take responsibility – even though the main threat might not be to the sectors of greatest concern to MAF.
  • In the Californian table grapes example, only MAF could suspend trade because only MAF employees (in this case, the Director of Plants Biosecurity) had the authority delegated to them by the Director-General MAF to revoke the import health standard that had allowed the trade to take place.
  • MAF is increasingly taking responsibility for biosecurity threats to the environment in addition to its traditional focus on the agricultural sector.

Other departments with more limited funding and experience in undertaking incursion responses have occasionally led an incursion response when the threat has been directly relevant to their area of responsibility. For example, MoH led the response to the southern saltmarsh mosquito, because the mosquito transmits Ross River virus, a significant public health risk – even though MoH, at the time, had only limited experience in dealing with insect-borne pests compared with MAF.

In March 2000, the Government launched the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy that sets national goals to conserve and sustainably manage the country’s biodiversity. In 2001, from funding under the Biodiversity Strategy, the Indigenous Flora and Fauna (IFF) Group was established within MAF Biosecurity.

In order to promote a more consistent approach to the analysis and management of biosecurity risks to indigenous flora and fauna by MAF’s biosecurity groups and the other main departments, the IFF Group is developing methodologies and procedures for use by these other groups. Where it is unclear which department should take lead responsibility for doing such analyses, responsibilities will be determined on a caseby- case basis.

Co-ordination Among the Departments

Responding to an incursion often requires a department to strike a balance between:

  • making quick, effective decisions – such as to eradicate or limit the spread of a newly-detected pest or disease; and
  • seeking views and advice from a wide range of departments and other government agencies, industry and sector groups, and consulting with local communities affected by the response.

In our view, co-ordination among the departments to achieve this balance could be improved.

To improve efficiency, effectiveness, and inter-departmental co-operation on biosecurity matters, the four main departments have drawn up memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between them. The first MoU was signed in July 2001. They are a useful basis for clarifying roles and responsibilities, and for promoting co-operation and consultation.

At a meeting of the Biosecurity Council on 6 March 2001, concern was expressed over the length of time taken to finalise the MoUs, noting that Operational Agreements to support the MoUs were still to be completed. The chief executives of the four main departments signed the Operational Agreements on 12 March 2002.

At that time, the Biosecurity Council had been in existence for some five years. While this issue was not on the Council’s agenda when it was established, we would have expected priority to have been given to the task of establishing a working framework between the departments. In the event, the task has taken much longer than was necessary or desirable.

The MoUs:

  • outline roles and responsibilities and the procedures for determining departmental roles;
  • set out how the departments should work together to address biosecurity issues;
  • require co-ordination officers from each of the departments to meet at least once a year to discuss all aspects of the MoUs; and
  • indicate which of the departments will be responsible for particular biosecurity activities.

The MoUs do not cover all the necessary aspects of biosecurity management – such as responsibility for dealing with pests with the potential to transmit diseases to both animals and people.

Our examination of the importation of Californian table grapes illustrated how unclear responsibilities and the failure to document interagency discussions can obscure accountability for key decisions. MAF’s decision to suspend trade in November 2001 was based on advice received at the time from DOC and MoH. However, both DOC and MOH were subsequently unclear as to why and on whose advice MAF had made its decision.

No formal minutes were kept of a key meeting between MAF, MoH, and DOC at which representatives of the three departments had considered the possibility of suspending trade, and which gave rise to MAF’s decision. Failure to document the discussions left MAF poorly placed to justify its decision, and accountability for the decision unclear.

In our view, current arrangements for consultation and co-ordination are still not sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that the departments involved are working together on issues affecting them, or that MAF has a clear mandate to promote such collaboration. The MoUs should be revised to place a higher priority on regular inter-agency contact, including consultation with regional government.

Given its experience and leadership role in biosecurity matters, we believe there is a strong case for MAF to be made responsible for responding to most, if not all, pest incursions and disease outbreaks, regardless of their impact. Any such decision would be likely also to require a review of biosecurity funding.

In particular cases it may be desirable to retain current responsibilities. For example, MoH has built up expertise through management of the southern saltmarsh mosquito incursion over a three-year period. If such exceptions are made, it is important that they are unequivocal, so as to leave no uncertainty over which agency is responsible. Whichever agency has lead responsibility, it must ensure that the other agencies are involved and consulted appropriately.

Appropriate Level of Protection

Biosecurity is a relatively new discipline that has evolved substantially in recent years from the older concepts of quarantine. Neither biosecurity nor its outcomes are defined in legislation, and it is widely accepted that zero risk in relation to biosecurity is impossible to achieve.

Given limited financial and human resources, decisions on what resources are given to and the focus of biosecurity activities are driven by the level of risk which the Government and its agencies are prepared to accept that pests and diseases will enter the country.

A Biosecurity Strategy (due to be launched in 2003) is planned to include a statement on the appropriate level of protection – a sound concept, but the reality is complex. The concept will be designed to bring greater transparency to the process by which levels of risk are deemed to be acceptable, but an agreed statement will not be easy to achieve.

The statement is unlikely to specify acceptable levels for particular incursions. However, it could include a framework for decision-making that would aim to achieve consistency, openness, and transparency – particularly in respect of those most affected by the decisions. The framework would need to focus on assessment of risks and costs. For example:

  • An outbreak of foot and mouth disease, or various other diseases, in New Zealand would be economically and socially catastrophic, and a high level of protection against such diseases is required. At the same time, high costs of protection need to be managed otherwise they could prove prohibitive – both in terms of direct costs to the Government and costs to industries affected by restrictive measures.
  • Many pests and diseases would have a relatively lower impact were they to enter the country and become established. This lower risk needs to be taken into account in deciding how the risk should be managed – including any decisions on control or eradication in the event of an incursion.
  • Some diseases have much wider ramifications than for the main affected industry. Examples are foot and mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or ‘mad cow disease’). In such cases, the mechanism for managing risks and costs needs to be particularly sophisticated, wide-ranging, and transparent – in order to gain the confidence of everyone who considers that they have a legitimate interest.

Co-ordination Within MAF Biosecurity

MAF Biosecurity was established in 1999 and co-ordinates the Biosecurity Programme. Within MAF Biosecurity there are, among others, groups dedicated to animal, plants, and forest biosecurity. There is also a Biosecurity Co-ordination Group (see Figure 8 on page 74).

When MAF Biosecurity was established, various organisational arrangements were considered. Options included structuring the groups in line with the components of the Biosecurity Programme (i.e. pre-border, border, etc). Such a structure would be difficult to operate in practice and was not favoured by industry groups – which preferred that MAF retain its animal, plants, and forest divisional groups as better reflecting MAF’s external constituency. However, there is still a need to harmonise risk management strategies and co-ordinate the technical capabilities of MAF to provide comprehensive biosecurity strategic capability.

Although some progress has been made towards making the methods and practices of the different groups more consistent, the groups continue to work largely independently of one another. Further effort is required to:

  • facilitate the sharing of information, knowledge and expertise; and
  • make it more likely that the different groups within MAF Biosecurity will respond in a consistent manner to matters raised by departments and other agencies working with MAF.


The Memoranda of Understanding between the four main departments should be amended to accord greater priority to regular interdepartmental contact, and to contact with regional councils, to reflect operational requirements, and to clarify surveillance responsibilities. The Memoranda should be reviewed and updated to reflect any changes in roles and responsibilities.

All meetings between departments should be documented to record what decisions have been taken and how the decisions were reached.

The main departments should work together to ensure that they have a consistent approach to, and application of, the statement on appropriate level of protection that is to be defined in the Biosecurity Strategy.

The Biosecurity Strategy should include a specification of goals and outcomes for biosecurity activities against which the activities are then measured.

Senior managers within MAF Biosecurity should continue to develop and implement measures to improve inter-group co-ordination and consistency (such as cross-group discussion of approaches to risk analysis).

Biosecurity Accountabilities and Leadership

Key Findings

MAF Biosecurity is the Government’s lead biosecurity agency and co-ordinates the Government’s Biosecurity Programme accordingly. However, the biosecurity activities undertaken by other departments also form part of the Biosecurity Programme, but neither MAF Biosecurity nor the Biosecurity Council have the mandate to oversee these different areas of biosecurity responsibilities.

The role and mandate of the Biosecurity Council is unclear and its profile is low. Discussions at meetings of the Biosecurity Council are limited by its wide membership.

The roles of the Biosecurity Council and departmental chief executives should be clearly distinguished – with the Council responsible for advising the Minister for Biosecurity, and chief executives collectively responsible for strategic biosecurity planning, priority setting, and operations.

With funding and biosecurity responsibilities divided among the four main departments, there is no clear focus for leadership of the Biosecurity Programme as a whole, or accountability for the results. In the absence of any formal accountability arrangements, MAF – and in particular its Group Director, MAF Biosecurity who is responsible for most activities within the programme – has increasingly been expected to take the lead.

Accountability for strategic planning and reporting on implementation of the Biosecurity Programme must rest with the chief executives of the four main departments. In our view, this group should meet on a formal and regular basis and report (at least annually) to the Minister for Biosecurity on their collective management of the Biosecurity Programme.

A particular challenge for the four chief executives would be how to develop the working relationship between central and regional government agencies and, specifically, how to better incorporate regional government into surveillance and incursion response activities.

The Biosecurity Council

The Biosecurity Council was established in 1997 to provide a forum for the discussion of broad biosecurity policy issues among the departments and other agencies with biosecurity responsibilities. The Council advises the Minister for Biosecurity on:

  • setting spending priorities;
  • responses to biosecurity risks; and
  • the appropriate level of biosecurity protection.

Figure 7 on the opposite page illustrates the membership of the Biosecurity Council.

The Biosecurity Council has a strategic, rather than an operational, focus. It does not have the mandate to take decisions and be accountable for them.

Two groups provide advice to the Council:

  • A standing subcommittee – the Biosecurity Technical Forum – comprising the Chief Technical Officers of the four main departments, policy advisers who have a biosecurity responsibility in each of the departments represented on the Council, and other central or regional government advisers as appropriate.
  • An advisory forum – the Biosecurity Consultative Forum – which provides a link between the Council and non-governmental groups with an interest in biosecurity.

Figure 7
Membership of the Biosecurity Council


The Biosecurity Council and its advisory groups meet four times a year. Over the past year, subjects discussed at these meetings have included:

  • development and progress of the Biosecurity Strategy, including appointment of a Strategy Advisory Group;
  • discussion and agreement to recommendations made in the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s 2000 report10 on biosecurity;
  • development of the Biosecurity Awareness programme;
  • sign-off on new policies – such as the Biosecurity Council Policy Statement on Responding to an Exotic Organism Incursion (September 2001); and
  • reports from the Council’s Technical Forum and Consultative Forum.

Submissions to the team developing the Biosecurity Strategy (see paragraphs 4.99-4.100 below) have indicated that the profile of the Biosecurity Council is low and its mandate unclear. The Chairperson of the Council told us that its wide-ranging membership made it difficult to conduct business effectively.

Other members of the Council we interviewed shared this view. In particular, the Council is now unable to advise the Minister for Biosecurity on setting spending priorities, as pre-budget discussions are no longer held at meetings of the full Council because of its wide membership.

The inclusion of representatives of the primary production sector and environmental organisations means that the role of the Council is now more akin to that of its own Biosecurity Consultative Forum.

The broad membership and lack of mandate has limited the potential effectiveness of the Council, and we recommend that consideration be given to changes in its structure and function.

Developing a Biosecurity Strategy

In 2000, the Government announced funding of $960,000 to develop a Biosecurity Strategy, to be launched in 2003. The process of developing the Biosecurity Strategy has given stakeholders the opportunity to reflect on current biosecurity arrangements and possible changes to them. The Biosecurity Council was asked to co-ordinate the development of the Strategy, and a Biosecurity Strategy Development Team was established to manage the project.

The Biosecurity Strategy is intended to provide direction and guidance to all parties involved in biosecurity, as well as raise biosecurity awareness with stakeholders and the general public. As a potentially key strategic body, the Biosecurity Council could play an important part in improving the advisory arrangements and oversight of strategic issues – for example, it could oversee the implementation of the Biosecurity Strategy when it is launched.


The role, membership, and mandate of the Biosecurity Council and its two forums should be reviewed, taking into account the Biosecurity Strategy. The review should include consideration of the Council’s role in co-ordinating and prioritising biosecurity-related research (see paragraphs 6.156-6.161 on page 115) – a task that might best be undertaken by the Council’s Technical Forum.

The chief executives of the four main departments should meet on a regular and formal basis and report to the Minister for Biosecurity. This should be the core executive group responsible for strategic planning, which is able to take and be accountable for decisions in relation to biosecurity. The group should consider how regional councils could best be involved in biosecurity policy decisions.

7: Estimates for 2002-03 include additional funding of $3.261 million for a number of biosecurity initiatives, which we have referred to at relevant points in our report.

8: CAB (93) M 24/7f.

9: Part XXIV, Maritime Transport Act 1994. Wherever possible, the full cost of any oil spill clean-up operation is sought to be recovered from the spiller. The cost falls on the Oil Pollution Fund if the spiller is unidentified.

10: New Zealand Under Siege: A Review of the Management of Biosecurity Risks to the Environment, 2000.

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