New $65m high-security biocontainment lab

Nathan Guy (left) checking out the current facilities at Wallaceville.Another step forward in improving New Zealand’s biosecurity measures – a new $65 million high security biocontainment laboratory for animal disease – was announced at Wallaceville yesterday.

It is another demonstration of the Government’s commitment to biosecurity, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

“The new facility will replace the existing high security laboratory and continue more than 100 years of animal disease diagnostics at the site,” he says.

“The existing laboratories and skilled personnel have an essential role in responding to disease outbreaks, protecting public health and providing international trade assurances about New Zealand’s animal disease status.

“While these current labs have a good service record, they are now reaching the end of their design life. This new, fit-for-purpose laboratory facility will be equipped to current international standards, and have better capacity to deal with a large-scale emergency situation, in the unlikely event one should occur.

“Primary industries form the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, with over $20 billion of exports coming from animal products. A major disease outbreak could halt trade, which could only be resumed through extensive laboratory testing.

“Many of our trade relationships are also dependent on ongoing surveillance and investigation work, such as that currently undertaken at the site on a day-to-day basis,” says Guy.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has commissioned an international company, Merrick, to design the facility (artist’s impression below).  Merrick have designed and built a large number of similar secure containment facilities around the Wallaceville biocontainment facility - artist's impressionworld.

The laboratory is designed to integrate two separate laboratories if New Zealand has a serious animal disease outbreak and maximum testing capacity is required to help manage the outbreak.

Some examples of diseases that could be tested at the facility include foot and mouth disease, anthrax, brucella, and avian flu.

“I’ve made biosecurity my number one priority. A world-standard diagnostic laboratory such as this is a necessity, not a luxury,” says Guy.

There are no live animals held at Wallaceville and no live animal testing carried out there. This will continue to be the case when the new laboratories are built. Preparative work is expected to begin on the site next month, with construction planned to begin early next year.

Material supplied by Minister’s Office.

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