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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 27 November 2007 Referencing Hub media
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Manuka Henare and Val Orchard explain what a new organism is and give examples of some of the organisms ERMA has permitted to come into New Zealand.

(Note: ERMA was disestablished in June 2011 and its functions were incorporated into the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).)

Transcript

Elizabeth Craker (Convenor) So what do we consider a new organism and how do we know it’s new?

Manuka Henare (ERMA) It is useful just to remember what an organism is from the point of view of the [HSNO] Act – it’s any individual animal, plant, bacterium, or a virus, so it is a pretty broad definition. It does not include human beings or any related genetic structures to do with humans.

We have to also decide, has that organism legally existed in New Zealand before 29th July 1998?

Val Orchard (ERMA) Things that were here before that date are not considered new organisms. Things that were not here, but we want to bring here now, are considered new organisms whether they are genetically modified or not. So it can be a giraffe, it can be – what have we approved recently? We've approved pygmy marmosets that haven't been here before.

If a zoo wants to bring new animals into the country that haven't been here before, they go through an ERMA application process and we weigh up the risks and benefits.

Manuka Henare (ERMA) We've had some fun ones – I remember I was on the group that approved a visit of a bear, one of the big brown bears from North America, and that bear was brought here for a movie and some television ads, and so that was fun.

We had to ask, were bears here beforehand? Well, there were bears here but not this particular type of bear. So we gave an approval and then made decisions about a whole lot of controls: that the bear couldn't run loose in a paddock, it had to have people with it, it had to have fences, all those kinds of things, a whole myriad of things, unbelievable things. And so when I looked at the movie – I've seen the movie since – and so I was sitting there in the audience thinking, “Oh, I know how this thing came here”.