A ceremony to mark the opening of the Department of Biosecurity’s extension project consisting of the plant health laboratory and the Meat Inspectors office was jointly officiated by Ms Lynley Hayes, Science Team Leader of the Biocontrol and Molecular Ecology of LandCare Research, New Zealand and the Director of Biosecurity, Ms Meriam Toalak.
The extension project, which is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) houses the meat inspection office which is purposely for meat inspection and veterinary service while the laboratory will be used for food safety and animal microbiology testing, butchery hygiene and sanitation monitoring.
The new office will see an expansion of office to cater for the Department’s new structure and an increase of meat inspection staff.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Director Toalak thanked the New Zealand MFAT for its assistance in funding the project, which include the extensions as well as the green shade.
“Our efforts to complete the two buildings would be impossible without the active support and contribution from the contractors and most importantly, our funding agencies, the NZMFAT,” she said.
She said the two rooms inside the laboratory is dedicated as a clean laboratory for Plant diagnostic purposes, while the other room is being used for rearing of the first biological control agent that was imported into the country around end of July this year.
“The first Bio-control is a Tingid, an insect that feeds on Claw Creeper Plant and this plant is found only on one site on Efate-American Pool, next to Ulei Junior Secondary School.
“The other sites for Cats Claw Creeper Plant are found in the islands of Tanna and Erromango, Ms Toalak added.
According to the Director, the project funds received in June 2018 was over 7 million vatu and these funds have been geared towards project work in the five islands of Tanna, Efate, Epi, Santo and Malekula, purposely for collection of weed samples for DNA work in New Zealand and Australia.
She said the extension project funds were part of this funding.
Meanwhile, Team Leader, Ms Hayes described the new extensions as a five-year project which aimed to improve better control method of serious weed to Vanuatu and particularly in improving the control of serious pasture weed like pigor and wild peanut, nail grass and lantana in cattle paddocks and other arable areas.
The other weed I mentioned, the plathenium, the nail grass, the lantana, African tulip and the Cats Claw Creeper, agents that are already well known and are available in the Pacific, we are picking them up from Australia and from Rarotonga and again importing them and getting the team to rear and release them.
She said the very first agent, the Cats Claw Creeper is here now in the quarantine room at the back and the team are rearing this it.
“It become very obvious very quickly when we joined the project here that there wasn’t enough space and the quarantine room that we needed for the insect rearing was full of stuff and people and you cannot have a quarantine room that is not clean and has no insect to hide,” said Ms Hayes.
She said they realised quickly that they would need to build an extension to this building to make enough space for offices and for also for labs and for storages.
“it is going to be marvellous because this building is also going to have a big meeting room where we can video conference because we can only come and visit the team every so often but we’re going to give them a habit of talking on video conference in case they have any questions or show us progress,” she explained.
The Plant Health Laboratory extension will be used to gather biological control agents that will be used to manage certain weeds in cattle paddocks as well as other arable areas.
The extension will also house plant health officers, a conference room, a storage room as well as an insectariums room to store the department’s insect collections. Source: MALFFB