New Zealand needs a whole-system approach to its biosecurity to better connect the community, scientists and governing bodies if it is to remain fit for purpose.
A singular, interconnected system is needed to address the fact that so many biosecurity risks are cross sectoral, Lincoln University’s Professor Philip Hulme said during a webinar on the future of biosecurity for NZ’s dairy sector, organised by the university.
“Everything is separated yet there are commonalities across all of the biosecurity threats that we are missing by working in this simple way,” he said.
“In New Zealand, animal health, human health environmental health and plant health are often dealt with separately.
“Really what we need to do is bring in biosecurity to work much more at the centre of these different areas.”
Hulme called this approach “One Biosecurity”.
There also need to be better links in the biosecurity continuum between pre-border, border and post-border, he said.
This has increasingly been seen as a way forward as the Ministry for Primary Industries refreshes NZ’s biosecurity system, which is comforting, he said.
DairyNZ biosecurity manager Liz Shackleton backed the call, saying the refresh is a huge opportunity to get the system right for the future.
She said NZ has a fragmented biosecurity system where different sectors tend to work in their silos.
“We have policies that are 30 years old and the funding settings have served us well to date, but ultimately will have to be reformed to be match-fit into the future,” she said.
For dairy farmers, when an an outbreak occurs – whether it’s Mycoplasma bovis or foot and mouth disease – dread and uncertainty remain.
Workshops were held with the Ashburton farming community last year to co-develop initiatives around safer trading of stock and other aspects to improve biosecurity responses.
When an incursion occurs, farmers are also dealing with the financial and environmental challenges that come with running a farming business.
“Be aware that this is the reality you’re facing when you’re trying to get science communication out there and into the community.
“More than ever, the anchor in this storm of chaos is going to be the need to take a step back and have that leadership to strengthen and integrate systems and partnerships and build that trust. That investment in face-time is so crucial.”
Shackleton said there were key take-home messages from reviews following the M bovis incursion.
These included the value of investment in preparedness around relationships, planning and people and ensuring data systems are properly integrated to allow for a single, more streamlined biosecurity approach.
“Until we get those system and information flows more integrated, we are continually going to be on the back foot.”