Page width Text size

The biosecurity story

New Zealand’s economy depends on its primary industries. This means that New Zealand is more dependent on biosecurity than many other developed countries.  

Well managed biosecurity – keeping out unwanted pests and diseases and controlling those that have already crossed our borders – protects our environment, as well as the livelihoods and wellbeing of New Zealanders. It also helps exporters market high quality, uncontaminated goods around the world.

New Zealand is largely free of many of the pests and diseases found in other countries, giving us a unique comparative advantage in primary sector production. New pests and diseases can undermine this advantage and create a significant risk for our primary producers, at both the farm and industry level. They can have consequences across both regional and national economies.

The significant impact of the bacterial kiwifruit vine disease Psa on the kiwifruit industry provides a graphic example of the adverse impact pests and diseases can have on business.

New Zealand's agriculture, food, forestry and fishing industries are major drivers of employment and our economy. These sectors account for more than 12 percent of New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP) and generate around 70 percent of our merchandise export earnings.

A growing challenge

The size of New Zealand's biosecurity challenge is increasing.  Importing countries are becoming increasingly concerned about any risks to their own production systems, consumers care more about pests and diseases carried on produce, and the increase in global trade is contributing to increased pressure and biosecurity risks from the movement of goods, people and vessels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries annually manages biosecurity risks across 700 000 containers, 90 000 vehicles and machinery and 35 million items of mail. Its dogs sniff the baggage of 5 million travellers and it sets 7400 traps for uninvited insects. MPI does more than 20 000 lab tests a year looking for unwanted insects, mites, fungi, bacteria and viruses.

A strong biosecurity system reduces the risks from the entry of pests and diseases, but this risk can never be totally eliminated. The key focus is on managing the greatest risks using a suite of tools, including detector dogs, x-ray machines, risk profiling, inspections and treatment. Risk management at the border is complemented and supported by actions to identify and manage risks before they get to our borders, as well as post-border activities designed to prepare for and manage established pests and diseases. 

Post-border activities include effectively controlling established pests while keeping a careful eye out for new ones, and reporting their presence as soon as possible. Early detection provides the best opportunity for a quick response and the greatest potential to eradicate an unwanted organism. Effective response arrangements are also critical to early and effective management of organisms that arrive in the country, so that their impact is lessened.

In 2012, more than 10,000 calls were made to the 0800 80 99 66 biosecurity hotline. More than 800 of these warranted investigation, and 29 resulted in responses. One organism became established, five are being managed and five were successfully eradicated. The remainder remain under active response.

Government Industry Agreements herald a new approach to biosecurity risk management in New Zealand, with government and industry working together as partners – reflecting the shared impact of unwanted pests on both the community and industry, and the benefits than can be achieved from better biosecurity outcomes.

References and useful links

New Zealand



Featured Item

Auckland Airport takes out GIA Industry Award

Report a new pest or disease

To report suspected exotic land, freshwater and marine pests, or exotic disease in plants or animals, call the MPI hotline:

0800 80 99 66


Contact Us
Key Resources
Receive GIA Newsletter