Farming leaders and Govt make progress towards Mycoplasma bovis decision

Farming leaders and the Government have met again today to discuss ways to combat Mycoplasma bovis, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

All those involved understand that farmers need certainty about a future plan and are committed to make a decision about the next steps in the biosecurity response next week, he said.

Two key options are on the table –

* Getting rid of the disease from New Zealand over time (phased eradication), or

* Long-term management (how we can all manage the disease, protect farms and slow any spread of it).

The decision will be taken jointly by the Government and farming industry representatives.

“Today’s meeting was constructive with all participants, including the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, updated on the known extent of the disease, the effects it’s having and the costs, both social and economic, of dealing with it,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Farmer, rural community and animal welfare is at the heart of the difficult decision. Clearly we want to make the best decision for farmers and the country.”

Organisations represented at the meeting were DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

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23 NAIT improvements will begin today but some await new regulations

Work will start immediately to improve New Zealand’s animal tracing system, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

After securing the release of the year-late report on the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system last month, officials have worked through the 38 recommendations and advised 23 can be implemented promptly by the management agency OSPRI, he says.

“NAIT has let us down in a time of great need as we manage the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

“The hunting down of Mycoplasma bovis has been slowed by the poor uptake of NAIT. For the minority of farmers who fully complied with NAIT, the tracing of animals for Mycoplasma bovis has been smooth.

“This is why it’s crucial we fix the system. NAIT is hard to use and farmers have not been told of the benefits of compliance.”

The 23 changes include:

• The NAIT number will be assigned to a particular location – not a person

• The NAIT interface will be improved to make it easier to enter information and a mobile app will be developed for use in the field

• The performance of accredited agencies will be better managed, particularly those providing information to NAIT on behalf of farmers.

“I’ve asked officials to take a tougher approach to NAIT compliance and the Ministry for Primary Industries will work with OSPRI to do this.

“As an interim measure, MPI’s animal welfare officers will carry out NAIT enforcement as part of their regular farm visits. Farmers need to play their part by ensuring they meet their legal NAIT obligations, especially with moving day upon us.

“MPI will also work with OSPRI to identify appropriate performance targets that will allow regular monitoring and evaluation of the scheme’s performance.”

Most of the remaining 15 recommendations require regulation or legislation change to implement.

Officials will consider whether transporters should have a formal role in the NAIT scheme and the timing for bringing in other animal species.

There will be consultation before moves are made on the remaining recommendations.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

$9.3m in Budget to strengthen biosecurity and protect the foundations of NZ’s primary sector

The Coalition Government’s biosecurity initiatives receive $9.3 million in new operating funding in Budget 2018 over the next four years to improve offshore biosecurity systems and  better manage the risks posed by imports.

Further investment in biosecurity is needed as New Zealand’s global trade and tourist numbers increase, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says in a press statement

When he took up his portfolio six months ago, the Ministry for Primary Industries had several biosecurity responses under way, including Mycoplasma bovis, myrtle rust, Bonamia ostreae and kauri dieback.

Furthermore, ships carrying the brown marmorated stink bug have been turned back.

Besides the new funding, the Government will speed up the review of import health standards.

“Our plan makes sure the exotic pests and diseases that could devastate our economy and wildlife have less chance of making it here in the first place, giving growers and farmers greater certainty about the health of their crops and animals,” Mr O’Connor says.

“This Government’s leadership will improve the resilience of our primary sector. We moved quickly this year to put up $85 million new operating funding in 2017/18 for the frontline response to Mycoplasma bovis in partnership with the primary sector.”

 
An update will be provided in coming weeks on the next steps of the plan to deal with Mycoplasma bovis, a disease which Mr O’Connor described as a regrettable example of why biosecurity in New Zealand must be properly funded.

Another concern had been the underfunding of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) during a time of increasing workload, he said.

“Budget 2018 addresses this with new operating funding of $38 million over two years for MPI to ensure our primary sector is well supported by Government initiatives as we work together to grow New Zealand’s reputation as the most trusted source of sustainable and premium natural products in the world.”

The Government is already reorganising MPI to house four business units so officials can concentrate on their core responsibilities of biosecurity, food safety, fisheries and forestry.

People around the world increasingly were buying products that align with their values, Mr O’Connor said.

New Zealand has a natural advantage, with a good record of animal welfare, grass-fed stock and brand recognition and the Government is determined to help this continue by properly funding MPI and the  critical biosecurity system.

 

Biofouling rules take effect to take hard line on biosecurity risk from dirty vessels

New Zealand has become the first country in the world to roll out nationwide biofouling rules to stop dirty vessels from contaminating our waters, says Minister of Biosecurity Damien O’Connor.

The new rules came into force yesterday to better protect New Zealand’s unique marine environment and other vital industries from biosecurity risk.

About 90 per cent of non-indigenous marine species in New Zealand, such as Mediterranean fanworm, Japanese kelp and Australian droplet tunicate, arrived on international vessels, Mr O’Connor said.

These incursions harm our aquaculture industries, fisheries and native marine ecosystems.

Under the new biofouling rules, operators must prove they’ve taken appropriate steps to ensure international vessels arrive with a clean hull.

Biosecurity New Zealand officers will take a hard line on vessels that can’t provide evidence they meet the rules, Mr O’Connor said.

Divers will carry out inspections of hulls.

Officers will also have the power to direct vessels for cleaning and order the vessel to leave New Zealand if the fouling is severe.

Vessel operators will meet the costs of any compliance order.

“The shipping industry has had four years to prepare for the changes and ignorance of the new requirements will not be accepted,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The definition of a clean hull will depend on vessel type and its itinerary.

“For example, the rules are stricter for vessels that are staying in New Zealand for a long time with the intention of visiting a range of ports.”

The Minister is urging all international vessel operators to make sure they know the rules before they arrive in New Zealand.

Source: Minister of Biosecurity

Mycoplasma bovis update from the Minister’s office…

A press statement from the Minister of Agriculture and
Biosecurity Damien O’Connor on Mycoplasma bovis late this afternoon emphasised four points:

 * Farming leaders and Government discuss next steps

* $307,000 for rural support trusts

* $7.8 million for animal feed

We will fix NAIT alongside the farming industry

Mr O’Connor says a top-level meeting with farming leaders about Mycoplasma bovis focused on helping farmers through the next few weeks.

“We all committed to make a decision about the next steps in the M.bovis response within the next couple of weeks. We talked about phased eradication and long-term management.

“It is a difficult choice that we will make together once we receive more advice from the Technical Advisory Group in the coming days.

“Farmer welfare is paramount to all of us. We are committed to helping farmers on the ground who are caught in the M.bovis response.

“We’ve given $307,000 to Rural Support Trusts to help farmers. And there is $7.8 million of funding that has been committed to help those struggling with feed issues.

“Over the next few weeks farmers who are not under controls are allowed to move stock, but they must adhere to their legal National Animal Identification and Tracing requirements and record animal movements.

“If you are concerned about moving your stock then be prudent, seek advice from your industry groups and MPI. The same goes for sourcing feed.’’

 

DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle (whose views are incorporated in the statementsays that this has been a tough road for farmers.

“It’s simply devastating to find out you have this disease on your farm and know what it could mean for your animals. The government and sector groups are working closely, putting our farmers and animals at the forefront of our thinking.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says:

“We have huge sympathy for the affected farmers and their families. The government and industry are working extremely hard to bring some certainty. For B+LNZ, our focus is on getting a clear direction for the future of the response as soon as possible, and learning everything we can to avoid our farmers going through this again.”

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says we are all in this together.

“Feds is totally committed to working with government and the other industry bodies to get to the right outcome – whatever that looks like.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to figure out what is the best way forward.”

Mr O’Connor says the Government and farming groups are committed to improving the NAIT system.

“It hasn’t worked as well as it should have. I know farmers are keen to improve it and I’ll work alongside them to achieve that.

“We realise that compensation is a major source of concern for farmers. DairyNZ has recently committed 10 additional staff to advise farmers on preparing their compensation claims – recognising that the more complete a claim is when it’s lodged, the faster MPI can turn it around.

“In addition, MPI has committed that farmers whose animals are being culled due to presence of the infection, will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within two weeks of a completed claim being lodged,” says Damien O’Connor.

B+LNZ has committed additional funding for the Rural Support Trusts to help drystock farmers through the compensation process, and employed additional resource to work with farmers on M.bovis and wider biosecurity management.

Mr O’Connor again met with leaders from DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Fonterra and the Meat Industry Association this afternoon.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

New strain of rabbit calicivirus confirmed in New Zealand

A new strain of the rabbit calicivirus has been confirmed in a single wild rabbit found on a Marlborough farm.

The strain – called RHDV2 – is widespread in Europe and Australia, but this is the first time it has been found in New Zealand, says Ministry for Primary Industries response manager John Brightwell.

The virus affects rabbits and the European hare, he said.

It has no impact on human health or other animals, but a potential risk to pet rabbits can not be ruled out.

“We understand this will be worrying news for many rabbit owners, and we want to give people as many tools as possible to minimise the risk to their animals,” Mr Brightwell said.

“As a precaution, we began work at the end of last month to import the latest vaccine for the strain from France. We expect the first 1,000 doses to be in the country next week and are working with importers to secure a long-term supply.”

The testing programme has identified only one wild rabbit but the virus spreads quickly.

“At this stage, we don’t yet know how widespread it is, or how long it has been in the country,” Mr Brightwell said.

“We are working to answer both those questions but our key focus right now is to minimise the risk in front of us and support rabbit owners to take the right precautions, including making a vaccine available.

“Because of the difficulties involved in pinning down a virus, we may never know exactly how it came into New Zealand and where it came from. However, we know that the strain was not brought in from Australia because it is sufficiently different from the RHDV2 strain prevalent there.”

The ministry is not ruling out that the new strain came in with the RHDV1-K5 strain which was released nationwide in a planned rollout through March and April because of extensive testing at the time.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Mycoplasma bovis is found for the first time in Waikato

Biosecurity New Zealand, a unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries, today confirmed that a farm in the Cambridge area has tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

The Waikato region dairy farm was identified through the tracing of cattle movements from infected properties and has been put through an exhaustive testing process to achieve a reliable result. The farm is under strict controls preventing the movement of animals and other risk goods on and off the property.

Biosecurity New Zealand’s response director Geoff Gwyn says it is very disappointing to find the disease in another of New Zealand’s key dairying regions.

But it was not a huge surprise, given the number of farms found to have received cows and calves from affected farms.

“It’s a reality of New Zealand’s farming system that large numbers of animals are sold and moved across big distances,” he said.

“This response is serving to underline just how much movement takes place and it is this, coupled with poor record keeping through NAIT that is making our job very challenging.”

The new Cambridge positive takes the number of infected properties across the country to 39.

Since the beginning of the response, Biosecurity New Zealand (MPI), animal industry bodies, vets and farmers have been intent on identifying new infected farms, containing the disease, and keeping all options open to make the best possible decision on how the disease should be managed in future.

Mr Gwyn said many ministry staff, along with our partners in industry, are putting in big hours to gather the information needed to make such a significant decision.

A key question: should New Zealand attempt to eradicate the disease or move to some form of management over the long term?

“It is not an easy decision to make,” Mr Gwyn says.

“All options remain on the table, but we are now looking harder at the possibility of having to manage it over the long term.

“A decision is expected by the end of this month. It’s taking time because we want to get it right and we are working hard with industry representatives to get us in the best place to make the best decision.”

DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand have been involved in the disease and cost modelling work that is needed to develop options.

DairyNZ is also providing support directly to farmers to help them make compensation claims.

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Federated Farmers, and the Meat Industry Association also have been involved in the governance of the response and are making important contributions to it operationally.

Whatever decisions are made later this month around eradication or long-term management, a joined-up approach between government and industry organisations will be critical for supporting farmers, Mr Gwyn said.

Source: Biosecurity New Zealand