Raw pig meat import decision disappoints industry
The New Zealand Pork Industry Board says it will work with the Ministry of Primary Industries to allay any fears of biosecurity risks associated with imported raw pig meat following its failed legal challenge to stop product entering the country.
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the board's appeal to stop the MPI allowing raw pig meat into the country through its import health standards for pork.
The board, which spent nearly $1.8 million in legal fees, opposed these standards because they allowed countries with the viral disease Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome to export raw pig meat to New Zealand.
Board chairman Ian Carter said he was very disappointed with the decision and it was a blow for pig farmers just before Christmas.
"It's not the present I wanted. Hopefully there's better stuff under the tree."
He said the board was still coming to terms with the decision and its implications. The immediate focus was to have discussions with the MPI to devise strategies that would minimise any biosecurity risks associated with imported raw pig meat.
Those discussions would continue into the New Year once people had returned from their holidays.
"Those discussions are taking place and will continue to take place. The MPI is very conscious about how sensitive this is to all parties," Carter said.
Carter urged consumers to buy New Zealand-made pork products as a means of minimising the biosecurity risks associated with imported raw pork products.
"That support certainly helps reduce the risk of incursion."
He said pig farmers had to maintain a high standards of biosecurity on their farms and dispose of waste pig meat appropriately.
"Internal biosecurity is critical. The greatest risk of transmissions of organisms is via feeding waste pig meat to pigs, which is largely from back- yarders." Back-yarders were people who keep a small number of pigs, usually on a lifestyle block or in the backyard of an urban property.
Carter said it was still not clear what the decision meant for the long term viability of the industry's commercial sector. The volume of pig meat entering New Zealand had doubled under the previous import health standards and Carter believed consumers were able to utilise this product effectively while the risk was managed.
"We don't see this as changing that significantly other than expose us to the risk of a disease that we would obviously prefer not to have."
In its legal challenge, the board claimed the MPI director-general acted unlawfully and challenged the consultation process under the Biosecurity Act 1993.
That challenge was unsuccessful in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal.
In a majority decision, the Supreme Court found that the MPI director-general had responded lawfully and had met the consultation obligations contained within section 22 of the Biosecurity Act.
In a dissenting view, Chief Justice Sian Elias said the requirements of section 22 were not met because the chief technical officer had failed to consult before recommending the issue of the import health standards, as required under the act. Therefore, the import health standards were invalid.