News and stories

Global members of the biosecurity team


24 September 2018

Being a tourist in Mount Maunganui doesn’t involve just the sun and sand of our well-known walks and beaches. Many visitors to this biosecurity conscious town – especially those in port for a day on cruise ships – venture further afield to visit kiwifruit orchards and farms.

Pests and diseases from offshore can cause serious harm to New Zealand’s unique environment and primary industries, including the local kiwifruit industry. Through the Port of Tauranga is one of the ways in which they can enter.

Tour hosts and drivers can help make a difference to keeping unwanted pests out by making sure all visitors follow good biosecurity hygiene practices. KVH has been working closely with those who transport and meet tourists at orchards to drive home the biosecurity message, says John Mather, compliance officer at KVH.

“What we’ve been doing is developing an approach that addresses the range of biosecurity threats visitors to our shores could bring with them,” John says.

“Tour operators understand biosecurity and why it’s important – they want to do the right thing and it’s about making it as easy as possible for them, and their customers.

“This has included going out and regularly meeting with tour operators to gain a better understanding of how their tours work, providing drivers and hosts with clear and simple scripted biosecurity information that they can share with their passengers when they talk about the day’s activities, and creating signage that reminds people what they need to do once they get off their buses and enter orchards to ensure they don’t introduce any unwanted organisms.”

Biosecurity is vitally important to orchardists, the Port, the local region, and all New Zealand. This country is fortunately free of many significant pests and we need to ensure we stay that way. Tourists visiting orchards have a keen interest in the industry and by far the majority fully cooperate with our biosecurity requirements.

“It’s a privilege to be able to visit a New Zealand kiwifruit orchard and hosts warmly welcome international visitors, but not the unwanted kind that pose a biosecurity threat to the livelihood of growers. Tour operators do an excellent job explaining to people that here in Mount Maunganui, the Port and the kiwifruit industry are very vigilant about ensuring we don’t have any incursions. They run through the rules – things like leaving bags and jackets on the bus so hitchhiking bugs aren’t inadvertently introduced; not taking any fruit onto or from the orchard; and walking over a footpad that contains a sanitiser so that any pathogens or bad bugs on footwear are killed."

Tour operators biosecurity signage 1200 x 720
An example of the footpads and signage Kiwi Country Tours use for all bus trips.

One such operator is Te Puke-based Kiwifruit Country Tours, who host around 200 tour groups each cruise season. Specialising in shore excursion tours exclusively for the cruise liners, owner operators Graeme and Gayleen Crossman are enthusiastic advocates for New Zealand kiwifruit and promote the importance of biosecurity when they discuss the business of kiwifruit with their passengers.

“We’ve been living all things kiwifruit for a long time and we’re very proud of how far the industry has come. As far as we’re concerned, doing everything possible to keep damaging pests out of orchards is essential and part of good business – for all of us,” says Graeme.

“We’ve put a lot of effort in to including biosecurity requirements on our tours because we think it really is one of the biggest threats to the industry. We tell our customers that Psa taught us a big lesson and we have to keep an eye out for pests – like the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in particular – because in other countries it makes it very hard to grow crops and we want to keep it at bay.”

The risk posed by international visitors includes the potential to spread unwanted diseases like Brazilian Wilt, which could survive in a gram of soil on someone’s shoes.

“We take precautions, like asking people to walk over a footpad before they step in to an orchard, and because we’ve already explained the bigger picture and the importance of biosecurity, all our customers are more than happy to play their part.”

That bigger picture is also discussed during Biosecurity Week at the Port of Tauranga, when KVH and Uzabus work together to discuss biosecurity with all coach drivers at the start of cruise season.

Uzabus are one of the key, and authorised, companies to ferry passengers on various pre-booked tours from the Port to kiwifruit orchards and various other scenic spots around Tauranga and Rotorua. As part of the initiative, John adds KVH staff meet all drivers individually and share information with them about what to be on the lookout for.

“We talk through what advice they can give to any passengers that may have inadvertently bought fruit, or any other food, off the cruise ships with them for their day out.”

“All-in-all what we’re doing is making sure that visitors to our special orchards leave no unwanted pests behind and go away having had a broad experience of our industry and the local community, learning a little bit more at the same time about how our biosecurity efforts help make our orchards and our kiwifruit unique.”