Press Release – New Zealand Government
Primary Industries Minister David Carter is welcoming a boost to New Zealand’s biosecurity frontline with the graduation today of 46 new recruits.
With training completed of the largest intake of border staff in over a decade, the Ministry for Primary Industries is issuing warrants to 43 new quarantine inspectors and three new detector dog handlers at a ceremony in Auckland.
As the Government had planned, these new border staff will bring MPI’s biosecurity frontline up to full strength and will help meet the demands of the summer peak season, says Mr Carter.
“The quarantine inspectors and dog handlers are now ready to protect our primary industries and the Kiwi way of life by keeping unwanted pests and diseases out of the country.”
The majority of the quarantine inspectors will be based in Auckland, and five will go to Wellington. The three new dog handlers will go to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Four existing warranted quarantine inspectors who have trained as dog handlers are also graduating today. They will work with the 11 detector dogs that went through MPIâs training centre earlier this year.
âDetector dogs and their handlers are an important part of our biosecurity frontline. The dogsâ presence at the airport is a major factor, they are excellent at detecting seeds and plants that x-rays may miss, and they screen people faster than x-rays,â Mr Carter says. ENDS
Press Release – Public Service Association
The Public Service Association says additional biosecurity staff will simply restore frontline numbers to where they were four years ago. The PSA says while the extra capacity will make a big difference, the extra staff will be filling holes left by a series of restructures over the past few years.
“Border security services have undergone a lot of change due to restructuring and belt-tightening at the Ministry for Primary Industries and were very stretched due to what was a sinking lid policy on frontline jobs,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.
“For several months there was no dog inspection unit at Wellington Airport and there have been serious staff shortages in Christchurch and at the Auckland port because vacancies have not been filled after staff left.”
“These new employees will simply take staffing levels back to where they were four years ago and won’t solve staffing problems at single officer ports such as Nelson and New Plymouth where extra capacity is desperately needed.”
Richard Wagstaff says there is a strong sense that this is a kneejerk response from the government to restore public confidence after a string of serious biosecurity breaches.
The PSA also warns that the new staff will be walking into a difficult industrial environment with MPI walking out on collective agreement negotiations after refusing to address a number of claims and claw backs it had presented. PSA members at MPI are taking industrial action by holding stop work meetings on December 19th and want to see a return to negotiations.