A dire warning that Korean mud for the Rotorua mud festival could also bring foot and mouth disease into the country is being given by Kiwifruit Claim chairman John Cameron.
John represents the 212 growers who are suing the government for MPI's alleged negligence in letting the kiwifruit disease PSA into the country.
It's just not worth the risk to any of our primary industries for MPI to approve an import of $95,000 of mud from South Korea, which may-be contaminated with Foot and Mouth disease, says John.
“Our primary industries are worth billions to our economy every year.
“Any outbreak of any diseases could cost people their livelihoods, their farms and jobs and would be devastating to the entire New Zealand economy. Has MPI learnt nothing from the PSA outbreak in New Zealand seven years ago?
“Like PSA, foot and mouth is a known disease. Given that South Korea has recently had an outbreak of foot and mouth, MPI needs to be 100 per cent sure that this mud is disease free – if there is any risk at all of that mud being contaminated with foot and mouth, then the import needs to be stopped.”
The Kiwifruit Claim's case is that the importation of PSA seven years ago was entirely preventable.
“MPI should never have allowed kiwifruit pollen into New Zealand,” says John. “The PSA outbreak would not have happened if MPI had followed its protocols under the Biosecurity Act.
“MPI never properly assessed the risks around PSA entering New Zealand from pollen, and failed to carry out its duties to check that the import matched the issued import permit. Growers' lives and livelihoods were ripped apart by PSA, and for many the impact is ongoing.
“We don't want to ever see this happen to any of our primary industries again.”
With PSA, there were growers who were wiped out, and faced with no crops and plummeting values of their orchards, says John. They lost their businesses, and were forced to sell at heavily discounted prices. Those that survived often suffered a complete loss of income, taking on huge additional debts to replant. Many growers are now only just beginning to get back to pre-PSA production levels after seven years.
“Given that MPI knows about the foot and mouth outbreak in South Korea, our primary industries need to be re-assured that at the very least, MPI has conducted a full risk assessment, and followed its protocols under the Biosecurity Act over the proposed importation of mud, and be totally accountable for the import. If there is any doubt – don't take the risk,” says John.
“MPI has sole responsibility for protecting our borders, and the primary industry sector relies heavily on it carrying out that function to the highest standard.”
The High Court trial to hold the government and MPI to account for the significant losses suffered by growers from the PSA incursion, begins in Wellington today. MPI denies the claims, but the Kiwifruit Claimants say the negligence is obvious.
The mud in powdered form is being imported by the Rotorua District Council as part of an agreement with Boryeong, South Korea which has a world-renowned mud festival that is being drawn upon by the Rotorua District Council for intellectual property, advice and support – in exchange for the $90,000 mud purchase.
Rotorua's Mudtopia is estimated could attract 9500 to 21,600 attendees over the first five years of its growth and provide a $5m economic impact in its first year, growing to $10m by year five.
It is seen as building on Rotorua's reputation as a geothermal, spa and wellbeing tourism destination, featuring mud-related activities and top music acts.
Rotorua Lakes Council Group Manager Operations Henry Weston says the five tonnes of their mud is sourced from a beach, but it will not be used all at once and will not be used in any mud “bath” or arena type activity.
“It will be used in a hands-on therapeutic experience and can be used for people's hands, faces and bodies,” says Henry.
“The South Korean mud will undergo heat and irradiation treatment in South Korea and will need to meet MPI importation requirements. Council has been working with MPI for over a year to ensure all importation requirements are met and the importation will be subject to those requirements being met. “Council has also been working with BOP Regional Council to ensure any of its requirements are met. No discharge consent is required. Mud from the festival will be captured, contained and taken away to be disposed of by a contracted waste management company.”