An interview with… Barry O’Neil

This month we talk to Barry O’Neil, a passionate biosecurity champion and man of many hats! 

What are your current roles?
Chair of Horticulture NZ, Chair of Tomatoes NZ, Deputy Chair Scion, Chair Kauri Die back review panel, Governance group National Science challenge for our biological heritage.

How did you get involved in biosecurity? 
A veterinarian by profession I have always been interested in exotic animal diseases and keeping them out of NZ – I was NZ’s Chief Veterinary Officer from 1994 -2009, President of the World Organisation for Animal Health from 2006-2009, and lead MAF’s Biosecurity New Zealand for 10 years until I left MAF in 2011.

What do you think are the biggest biosecurity challenges for Tauranga Moana? 
We have the port on our doorstep and with that 112 cruise ships discharging 300,000 passengers and crew this year. Chances are someone will do something dumb, or something will hitch hike a ride on them and jump ship in the Bay.  International trade and travel is so easy and fast today, and it’s impossible to stop everything at border so we need to be aware of what could come in, and we need to be on the look out for the new or unusual.

What activities do you see making a difference? 
Raising awareness like was done with the stink bug banner on the grain silo – getting people engaged and understanding they can make a difference.  Whether that be looking for myrtle rust or stink bug, or talking to tourists about why biosecurity is so important to us.

When not working, how do you like to spend your time?  
I have a small kiwifruit orchard north of Katikati at Ongare Point, and as such I’m an active relaxer!

What do you love most about Tauranga Moana? 
The harbour, climbing the Mount, the climate, and the fact its easy to get to lots of North Island places (traffic willing!).

How do you think the TMBC network can be most effective? 
Reaching out and raising awareness of biosecurity risks and what we can do with all the people of Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, whether they are retired, still in employment, or at school.