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Forest biosecurity experts gather in New Zealand

Forest biosecurity experts from around the world will be converging in Rotorua, New Zealand from 16 to 20 March to attend a conference focused on protecting forests from invasive insects, diseases and weeds. As the first international conference on this topic ever to be held, it is being hosted by Crown Research Institute Scion, which is New Zealand’s leading provider of forest biosecurity research.
Head of forestry science at Scion, Dr Brian Richardson says that biosecurity research is a vital issue, with one serious pest incursion alone capable of costing New Zealand up to $600 million. The cost of eradicating just one of these pests could be up to $63 million. Even greater costs are faced by other countries with larger forest resources.
“This conference will provide a unique forum for scientists, forest managers and policy makers to share knowledge, create networks and promote international actions to protect forests from these risks,” he explains.
Dr Richardson says that governments throughout the world are grappling with the issues of climate change and sustainability, so it is widely recognised that the protection of natural resources – and of forests in particular – has become paramount.
International forest pathology expert Dr Mike Wingfield agrees, citing the rapidly growing numbers of pests and pathogens appearing in forests and forest plantations worldwide.
As Director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) in South Africa, Dr Wingfield will be among many invited speakers sponsored to attend the conference in Rotorua. He says the growing risks associated with increased global trade create a need for those interested in forest biosecurity to share knowledge and experience
“The conference will be fundamental in driving this process,” Dr Wingfield says.
“I have no doubt that discussions at this meeting will have a substantial impact on the way in which we deal with the subject for many years to come.”
The conference programme includes a full-day seminar on Tuesday 17 March sponsored by the OECD that will focus on how to integrate biosecurity science into policy and regulation. This seminar will feature a range of international keynote speakers who are leading authorities on biosecurity research and management. These speakers include Dr Mark Lonsdale, Chief CSIRO Entomologist in Australia, Peter Thomson, director of Post Border Biosecurity at New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Dr Hugh Evans, Head of Tree Health for the UK Forestry Commission.
Dr Richardson says that the conference will provide a unique opportunity for anyone in the business of forest biosecurity to hear how the world’s leading experts seek to manage one of the great global challenges of our time.