Reframing New Zealand’s Biosecurity Conversation Post-Covid-19: An Argument for Integrating Interspecies Concerns

Author: McDonald, D. A.
Published in National Security Journal, 24 August 2020

valued and valuable life’s mobility while removing, halting or preventing threats to its thriving.46 As Hinchliffe (2013) observes, “the trouble is that good and bad often share the same spaces.”47

Post-COVID-19, the second of Barker’s biosecurity categories (communicable diseases impacting on human health) will likely loom large over our biosecurity practices in all of their manifestations from now on. For example, there might be changes in the use and status of ‘biosecurity control areas’48 at airports to routinely incorporate human disease testing, or proof of immunity/vaccination certification could be required for all travellers in the future.49 We may see calls for ongoing compulsory quarantine or isolation for people and goods, slowing down human and trade movements between countries or regions. There will doubtless be implications for biosecurity practices relating to farmed animals and primary products, too, which are commodities that are vital to New Zealand’s economic security – along with the movement of people.


Biosecurity in New Zealand

New Zealand’s definition of biosecurity is set out in a high-level strategic document titled the Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement for New Zealand’s Biosecurity System (Biosecurity 2025). Biosecurity 2025 defines biosecurity as “the exclusion, eradication or management of pests and diseases that pose a risk to the economy, environment, cultural and social values, including human health.”50 Unsurprisingly, this policy definition has been drafted around biosecurity practices, or the ongoing attempts to make valued life more secure. The practice of exclusion refers to keeping pests and diseases off-shore, while eradication refers to removing those pests and diseases from New Zealand, and management generally refers to long-term management where exclusion and eradication have not been possible.51 The four areas of New Zealand society that biosecurity attempts to make secure are the economy, the environment, human cultural and social values, and human health. The Biosecurity 2025 Workplan: Strategic Direction 5 Tomorrow’s skills and assets (Biosecurity 2025 Workplan) clearly sets out the importance of “[i]ncreased awareness and informed connections between all components of the [biosecurity] system…including recognition of the impacts and benefits of the system on human health.”52 These documents expressly contemplate biosecurity conversations that include reference to zoonotic diseases and animal-human connections and relationships.

There is a previous definition of biosecurity that was set out in Tiakina Aotearoa/Protect New Zealand: The Biosecurity Strategy for New Zealand (Biosecurity Strategy), which was the predecessor to the current Biosecurity 2025. The Biosecurity Strategy was published in 2003, but even then biosecurity was defined with express reference to human health: “[b]iosecurity is the exclusion, eradication or effective management of risks posed by