New Zealand High Commissioner Tessa Te Mata said she did not realise that the Cook Islands, as a dynamic, forward-looking country, did not have a laboratory.
However, she said she was pleased that the plant health and entomology lab had been completed as it was a fundamental tool for the country.
“This is very important, New Zealand exports to hundreds of countries around the world, 75 per cent of what we produce, and if we do not know what was coming in, it could devastate our industries.
“I have been in countries around the Pacific where species of mites have come into the country and have devastated honey industries,” she said.
The new lab was a tool that would be able to protect the country’s agricultural industries and was important to protect a country that had tourists coming in on planes and boats.
“You need to have the tools to protect your industries and to grow them. This is a really important step. This is important in terms of making sure the Cook Islands has its own ability to manage invasive species and biosecurity matters,” she added.
“New Zealand will always be there to support you but this is a necessary tool.”
Secretary for Agriculture, Temarama Anguna-Kamana said the laboratory was first proposed in 2009 to accommodate research programmes for taro and yam breeding.
She said due to insufficient funding within the ministry’s budget at the time, the lab plans did not progress.
It was upon donor funding from the Global Environment Fund, through National Environment Services and the New Zealand Landcare research programme, that they managed to get the lab plans progressing. Funds were also through the Ministry of Agriculture budget and New Zealand Aid.
Minister for Agriculture Rose Brown said although the country does not export much produce today compared to the past, the country still needed to be in compliance with the New Zealand Access requirements.