Media Release: MPI's failure will cost us our forests

February 18

Te Tira Whakamātaki, the Māori Biosecurity Network has criticised the Government in its failings to uphold its Treaty obligations to protect taonga species. Accordingly TTW requests an urgent review of the biosecurity system as promised in the New Zealand First-Labour Party coalition agreement. Further, it calls for the establishment of a dedicated, independent and fully funded bio-security agency to provide oversight and auditing of biological threats to Aotearoa New Zealand’s native species and ecosystems, especially those with cultural, social and environmental value, not just economic.

The lifting of a controlled area notice in Taranaki, intended to prevent the spread of Myrtle rust, on the same day as confirmation that the fungus has been discovered on conservation land for the first time in New Zealand is a disaster.

We could be on the brink of an ecological catastrophe. The potential for the biosecurity system to fail under the increasing number of pests and diseases, in addition to the pollution of our waterways and oceans, is huge” said Ngāti Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Ruapani ki Tūranga Dr Nick Waipara, a Plant Pathologist and member of TTW. “Many of our native taonga species are at a perilous tipping point as their populations are already exposed to climate change and fragmentation, let alone the burden of new invasive species. The new government has been lacklustre in its approach to dealing with system failure. The controlled areas may have failed because of a lack of control and detection tools, delays in implementation, resourcing and auditing, and myrtle rust experts, including those tackling the disease in Australia, had previously alerted New Zealand to this serious risk. Additionally the lack of consistency in the treatment of infected sites across regions has aided the spread of the fungus in some places.”

By taking this course of action the Minister and his officials have effectively thrown their hands up and abandoned the environment and the people whose cultural identity and livelihoods depend upon it. TTW support’s Forest and Bird’s assessment that when it comes to protecting native species, it is evident that MPI lack the will and expertise to act effectively.

It is possible to prevent and control these emerging diseases, but MPI has repeatedly failed our conservation species. We implore the Ministers to act now to save our environment and our heritage.

For further questions or comments, please contact: Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, Kaiwhakahaere