Farmers Say Jetstar Border Plan ‘Short-Sighted’

Farmers say Jetstar border plan 'short-sighted'

The New Zealand Herald, August 6, 2010

Budget airline Jetstar's calls to scrap immigration checks on transtasman routes have sparked biosecurity fears among an industry lobby group.

Federated Farmers says Jetstar's desire to do drop immigration checks – and passenger charges – on one side of the Tasman could cause millions of dollars worth of damage to the New Zealand economy.

An Access Economics report commissioned by Jetstar found dropping border controls could cut return airfares by $94 and increase passenger numbers by up to 13 per cent.

The move could boost New Zealand and Australia's GDP by up to $454 million, the report said.

But Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson said Jetstar's position was short-sighted, and it would take thousands of flights to match the millions of dollars that has already been spent eradicating pests here.

'This is all about commercial self-interest,' he said.

Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan said removing controls on one side of the Tasman would eliminate the duplication involved in performing customs, immigration and quarantine checks on both sides of the Tasman.

Nciolson said there was a huge risk from air passengers carrying contaminated products in both directions.

He estimates it would take 670,000 flights at the $94 saving, just to match the $63 million that has already been spent eradicating the painted apple moth – which is a minor pest there, but is deemed a major risk here.

'We've both got nasties that each country wishes to avoid. The slightly venomous Gum Leaf Skeletoniser is now endemic here and if not checked by a biological control, could cause $141 million worth of damage.'

'Just in May a consignment of fruit from Queensland contained viable fruit fly eggs, so imagine how easy that would be if infected fruit was carried on the person or left in a carry-on bag.'

'Last year a cane toad even snuck through biosecurity in Queenstown and we were fortunate it mades its winter break for freedom in a shop right on front of a guide, who also happened to be a part-time MAF employee.'

'If the toad was pregnant and got loose in the Waikato, it could have been an environmental disaster.'

'Federated Farmers stance is simple and that's all day every day biosecurity,' Nicolson said.