Biosecurity and Border Health
Border Health aims to limit and respond to the international spread of diseases and other public health risks posed by people and vectors such as mosquitoes and rats. Protection measures seek to prevent harm to human health, including the health and wellbeing of international travelers, aircraft and ship crew, and the general public. There are many other government authorities and agencies involved with this work – including Customs NZ, Immigration NZ, Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Primary Industries.
The Health Protection Team in Hawke’s Bay is involved with the following tasks:
- Granting Pratique for International Aircraft and Ships
- Inspection of Ships and Issuance of Ship Sanitation Certificates
- Management of Communicable Disease at the Port or Airport
- Routine Mosquito Surveillance
- Response to discovery of an interception of an exotic mosquito
- Assessing and Managing a Public Health Emergency at Napier Port
These tasks are described in further detail below.
Hawke’s Bay Airport
Most commercial flights arriving in New Zealand are deemed to automatically have health clearance, but the Captain must alert the oncall Health Protection Officer (HPO) if there is an infectious disease risk on board. Unscheduled flights such as private jets must also alert the oncall HPO, of the health status on board. Visit New Zealand Customs Service to see all the rules around private jets arriving in New Zealand.
Ships arriving at Napier Port from overseas must have been issued a health permission (known as ‘Pratique’) by the HPO before they enter the port. The purpose of pratique is to confirm that a ship is free from contagious disease.
Pratique is issued by the On-call HPO when the Master of a ship declares the ship and its occupants are free from any quarantinable diseases before it enters Napier Port. Without pratique, a ship is liable to quarantine controls set out in the Health Act 1956. Quarantinable Disease’s are listed in the Health Act 1956.
To obtain pratique the ships master (or agent) must email the required documentation to the oncall HPO at least 48 hours before they arrive in NZ waters. They must then confirm with the oncall HPO whether there has been a change in the health status on board the vessel between 12-24 hours prior to its arrival into Napier Port.
If the HPO is satisfied there is no Quarantinable Disease on board the ship, pratique is granted and emailed to the vessel/agent. If pratique is denied the vessel is likely to be subject to quarantine controls.
International ships arriving at the Port of Napier must have a current Ship Sanitation Certificate (previously referred to as ‘deratting’ certificates). These certificates may be awarded to a vessel after satisfactory completion of an on-board audit an appropriate port somewhere in the world every six months.
These certificates provide evidence that public health authorities have inspected the ship, there is no evidence of significant infection amongst passengers or crew, and any vectors (an animal or insect species that enables spread of certain diseases to humans) found have been eliminated. The certificates help to ensure vessels remain in a condition unlikely to spread diseases to and from international ports.
HPOs in the Health Protection Team are responsible for managing the certification process (including issuing them) in our region.
The most common infectious illness coming into New Zealand by ships and aircraft is gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting). While it is not often serious in people who are healthy, gastroenteritis can cause complications in the young, elderly, and others with poor immune systems. Cruise ships usually have medical staff capable of dealing with outbreaks of illness, but from time to time Health Protection Officers may be required to assist. A cruise ship cannot be denied entry to New Zealand just because of an outbreak of gastroenteritis.
When the HPOs are notified of an illness on a ship or plane they can decide what action is necessary to protect the health of New Zealanders and the other passengers and crew. Crews of ships and planes must be able to deal with contamination to prevent further spread of the disease.
New Zealand is a signatory to the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR). These regulations aim to protect public health, and minimise the international spread of infectious disease. The Napier Port is a designated a IHR Port of Entry (POE) under the IHR. This means that it must be prepared to respond to a public health hazard, event or emergency of international concern. Hazards include chemical, biological or radiological hazards as well as infectious diseases. Under these regulations, the illness of passengers must be reported to health authorities, such as the Medical Officer of Health or HPOs in the Health Protection Team in Hawke’s Bay.
The Hawke’s Bay Regional airport does not get scheduled international passenger flights, but does get unscheduled charter and medical evacuation flights. This means that although it is not a POE it is designated by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) as a Place of First Arrival (PoFA)
The Health Protection Team undertakes mosquito surveillance at our borders (Hawke’s Bay Airport (unscheduled international flights) and Napier Port). This is to prevent exotic mosquitoes from the becoming established in New Zealand and prevent the spread of serious viruses such as Zika virus, Malaria, Ross River Virus and Dengue Fever.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) also has ongoing surveillance programmes to look for pests and diseases that might have arrived from overseas. This ensures New Zealand is aware of which pests or diseases (organisms) are here and which are not.
Introduced species of mosquitoes are very difficult and expensive to get rid of once established. New Zealand has 12 native species of mosquito and 3 well-established introduced species. Click here to read more about these species.
Response to discovery of an interception of an exotic mosquito
HPOs are responsible for responding to the discovery of an interception (confirmation of presence) of an exotic mosquito (a mosquito from overseas) at the Napier Port, Hawke’s Bay Airport or transitional facility (a facility approved by MPI to receive containers and goods that may pose a biosecurity risk). They team will also respond to any suspected exotic mosquito sightings and reports.
A Public Health Emergency is an event that may adversely affect the health of human populations, with an emphasis on one which may spread internationally or may present a serious and direct danger. The Health Protection Team in Hawke’s Bay makes sure that the Napier Port and Hawke’s Bay Airport are prepared for public health hazards by:
- Promoting they have maintaining emergency response plans
- assessing unwell international travellers and crew
- developing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders.