The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) welcomed a judgement by the High Court validating the decision-making process MPI followed when developing import requirements for pork from countries where the disease Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is present.
At issue in this case was MPI’s response to the report of an Independent Review Panel and the process that led to the Director-General’s decision to accept existing risk assessments and let the import health standard stand under Sections 22 and 22A of the Biosecurity Act.
The High Court rejected NZ Pork’s argument that the Director-General should simply have voted down the new import health standards after the Independent Review Panel reported back, and started again with a wholly new risk assessment and further consultation.
The Court noted that, in an area of evolving knowledge, such an approach could create “a permanent loop of argument over science from which there is no escape” and that the statutory players need to be accorded a reasonable degree of latitude in the way that they make biosecurity risk assessments.
MPI Director-General Wayne McNee says the decision endorses MPI’s role as an independent, objective science and evidence-based regulator.
“MPI’s primary concern when developing import health standards is ensuring the risk of diseases – such as PRRS – establishing in New Zealand is effectively managed. Clearly MPI, NZPork and all pig farmers share that objective, given the impact the disease would have if it arrived in New Zealand. While the new import health standards are less restrictive than previous standards, they are much more restrictive than the standards in place prior to 2001. Pre-2001, raw pork was imported with no restrictions for over 10 years, and no outbreaks of PRRS occurred.
The decision to issue the new pork standards was made after years of assessing all available science and a comprehensive risk assessment process, which showed that the risks of PRRS entering New Zealand can be effectively managed through the measures outlined in the standards. MPI consulted extensively with affected parties and international experts throughout this period.
Friday May 4, 2012/ Biosecurity New Zealand/ New Zealand.