Protecting New Zealand's Primary Industry

General News

Feb 03, 2017

New Zealand has some of the highest biosecurity regulations in the world – and there’s a good reason for that. A single outbreak of a foot and mouth disease could cost the country upwards of $16 billion – represented by export losses of $14.4 billion, $1.17 billion to eradicate the disease and $30.8 million in compensation. 

Agriculture remains one of the largest contributors to New Zealand’s economy and ensuring the quality of our meat and dairy is essential to maintaining international trade. Robust biosecurity regulations provide assurance to our trading partners that New Zealand is free of diseases that could stop our animal products being accepted offshore.

Protecting our primary industries is currently the responsibility of a non-descript laboratory in the outskirts of Upper Hutt. The National Bio-containment Laboratory at Wallaceville is New Zealand’s only approved site for containing and diagnosing veterinary diseases. New Zealand trade depends on the lab’s day-to-day surveillance and investigation to maintain access to international markets. 

Besides our export industry, the laboratory protects our environment, wildlife and human health by handling and testing any organisms that could cause disease. In addition to foot and mouth, this could include avian bird flu, anthrax and brucellosis. 

Wallaceville has been home to New Zealand’s animal disease diagnostics for more than a century and was the site of the first veterinarian lab in the southern hemisphere. 

With the existing laboratory nearing the end of its lifespan and becoming more expensive and difficult to maintain, the Ministry of Primary Industries sought contractors for a state-of-the-art new facility on the same site. 

Fletcher was engaged to construct the new $65 million laboratory, which will meet international best practice for handling animal and human pathogens and contain some of the most sophisticated systems and safety features in the world. Designed with flexible working spaces, the laboratory will be able to accommodate different diagnostic tests and machinery as needs and technologies change. 

Key features of the new 3400m2 laboratory will include:
•    State of the art seismic protection – the lab will be able to withstand a “one in 2500 year” earthquake;
•    Full negative pressure and air filtration systems to ensure no contaminated air can escape the laboratory;
•    decontamination of all liquid effluent and other materials leaving the lab;
•    entry and exit showers for all staff and visitors;
•    increased security;
•    Integration of high and medium containment areas to improve capacity.
•    Complete with a new innovation in lab design that will allow some of the PC2 labs to convert to the higher level(PC3+)when needed in a emergency 

High-level bio-containment laboratories are rare, with hygiene and security requirements that are far beyond other building projects. The Ministry for Primary Industries searched the globe to assemble a team with the necessary expertise to design and construct the facility to meet these rigorous requirements. Northern American firm Merrick and company is leading the design, with local input from Dunning Thornton, Beca and CCM Architects. Fletcher’s experience on a range of complex medical and science builds was essential to securing the project. International bio-containment experts are embedded within the team to ensure the building is constructed and commissioned to the required standard. 
Work commenced on site in November 2015, with the new laboratory due for completion in July 2018. The existing facility will remain fully operational as the new one is constructed.