Biosecurity rules are being tightened to prevent the arrival of a pest which could devastate New Zealand’s horticultural industry.
The brown marmorated stink bug feeds on more than 300 plants and has already cut a swathe through Europe and the United States.
If it gained a foothold in New Zealand, it could cost the horticulture and arable industries an estimated $4 billion.
In an effort to keep the bug at bay, Biosecurity New Zealand is tightening the rules for imports during this year’s stink bug season, which runs from September to April.
Under the new rules, the list of countries required to fumigate imported vehicles, machinery, and parts before their arrival in New Zealand would rise from 17 to 33.
These countries have all been identified as having stink bug populations.
In another change, imported vehicle cargo would need to be treated offshore, including cargo in shipping containers.
In the past only non-containerised vehicle cargo has required offshore treatment, Biosecurity New Zealand spokesman Paul Hallett said.
Offshore treatment requirements would also apply to all containers from Italy.
“The new rules are intended to reduce the biosecurity risk to New Zealand, by ensuring potentially contaminated cargo arrives as clean as possible,” Hallett said.
Biosecurity NZ planned to have officers based in Europe this season to educate manufacturers, treatment providers and exporters about the new requirements and to audit facilities.
“If our checks find any issues, New Zealand will not accept any cargo from that facility until the problem has been fixed.”
Hallett said New Zealand’s treatment requirements were now closer to Australia’s, which would make compliance easier for importers bringing cargo to both countries.
“A key difference is that the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will continue to allow treatment on-arrival for containerised goods,” he said.
The new rules would be provisional until July 15 and could be contested during that time.
The changes come after a spate of stink bug discoveries last year.
In November, Biosecurity NZ ordered a vehicle carrier to leave New Zealand waters after the discovery of stink bugs.
Three live and 39 dead brown marmorated stink bugs were found aboard the Carmen when it arrived in Auckland from Europe. Another 69 regulated stink bugs were also found.
A week later, more than two dozen live stink bugs were found in a box of shoes imported into New Zealand from EBay.