Thousands of pest and diseases found in imported shipping containers
Thousands of pests and diseases continue to slither, crawl and make their way to New Zealand in imported goods.
Earlier this year, a huntsman spider hitchhiked from Melbourne to Christchurch in Lululemon Athletica apparel stock.
The Australian spider successfully slipped through border controls and was later found by surprised inner-city shop staff unpacking the goods.
Figures released by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveal that thousands of unwanted pests and diseases were prevented from getting as far last year.
A total of 18,896 contaminants were found in imported shipping containers across New Zealand in 2016.
A total of 752 contaminants were discovered in "low risk containers" on arrival at Christchurch transitional facilities.
Spiders accounted for 159 arrivals, alongside 126 insects, 142 seeds, 11 reptiles and four amphibians.
During MPI container inspections in Christchurch, 470 contaminants were found, including one Giant African Snail.
Christchurch cargo inspections of "risk goods" identified 937 contaminants. Seeds accounted for 227 of the finds, as well as one mammal rodent, 194 plant products and 22 ants.
MPI freight and mail team manager Chris Denny said increasing numbers of trade and travellers were putting mounting pressure on New Zealand's biosecurity system.
MPI responded by investing in additional staff, detector dogs and detection technology such as baggage x-ray screening, he said.
Better Border Biosecurity director Dr David Teulon said the public's interest appeared to be in larger items, like snakes.
"They may be the easiest to deal with but it's the smaller things that can be much more difficult to deal with," he said.
Denny said foot-and-mouth disease had been singled out as a major biosecurity threat to New Zealand in the past.
"This disease could arrive in New Zealand via a contaminated animal product. The loss to the NZ economy of foot-and-mouth disease getting here has been estimated at around $6 billion after one year, and around $10 billion after two years."
Over the New Zealand summer season, there had been a huge focus on keeping fruit fly and the brown marmorated stink bug out of New Zealand.
The information provided noted that while contaminants may be found and reported on, not all were a biosecurity risk.
Transitional facilities are used to hold imported goods in a controlled biosecurity area where they are checked for any contaminants.
OIA information revealed the facilities were an important part of New Zealand's biosecurity system. Since March 2015, the number of transitional facilities has reduced from 5686 to 4985.
Denny said the reduction had been influenced by the tougher new requirements MPI introduced to improve the management of the sites.
"The changes include new training demands for facility staff/operators and increased auditing of facilities. In addition, MPI has taken steps to revoke or deny approval for facilities that receive low volumes of cargo and it has increased fees for approving facility operators."