This National Government is far too lax on biosecurity.
I was reminded once again of this on my visit to Nelson yesterday to find out about how the eradication programme of the Great White Butterfly (GWB) is progressing. This voracious pest was found a few years ago for the first time in New Zealand. It probably came in through the port and is currently contained in the Nelson area, so we still have the chance to eradicate it. We really have to or we are looking at huge costs to our farmers and biodiversity.
I joined in the hunt for this pest, and saw GWB, egg masses, and caterpillars at several development stages. It was great to see school children on holiday with butterfly nets hunting for the $10 bounty butterflies as well. As summer develops, I predict that without a significant increase in full time response teams the butterfly will persist and spread throughout the country.
I was on Rural Report today talking about my visit to Nelson. The Department of Conservation teams are doing an admirable job in building community engagement with identifying GWB infestations through the $10 bounty per butterfly scheme. There are 5 teams systematically scouring the Nelson area and responding to public sightings. The Ministry for Primary Industries, however, need to step up and increase resources, considering the effect this butterfly will have on producers if it is not eradicated.
We got information from DOC showing that 57 indigenous cress species are at risk from this new pest and should it spread through New Zealand, annual management costs to food production would exceed $8 million every year, mostly through increased agricultural spraying.
Any time soon there will be new discoveries of GWB well beyond the current infestation area, and a potential throwing up of hands as Government thinks it is too hard to eradicate. The time for a super intensified eradication program is now!