Law changes are enacted under urgency to support M.bovis eradication

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today announced a package of technical law changes to support the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme.

He said the response to cattle disease M.bovis has highlighted problems in the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (NAIT), primarily farmers not registering animal movements and a lack of compliance activities to ensure NAIT’s use.

Changes to the NAIT Act 2012, made under urgency in Parliament this week, will:

• Align the NAIT Act search powers with the Search and Surveillance Act.
• Make it clear that all animal movements must be declared to NAIT, even if the new location is not a registered NAIT location.
• Hold to account those who fail to declare those movements to NAIT.

These changes go no further than providing powers that already exist under other Acts, which allow officers to lawfully obtain information where non-compliance is an issue, the Minister said.

The Government has created three infringement offences under the Animal Products Act 1999 related to non-compliance with certain Animal Status Declaration requirements.

Furthermore, M.bovis is being made a notifiable organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

This means people who suspect the presence of the disease in a new location must report it to the Ministry for Primary Industries. Prompt reporting is necessary to eradicate the disease.

“Since getting the NAIT Review in April, compliance activities have been stepped up with hundreds of on-farm checks, compliance warnings, stock truck checks and 39 infringement notices – compared with one in the previous five years,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Today’s legislation marks another meaningful step in bolstering NAIT. We are already implementing nearly two dozen changes that don’t require legislative change, and will revisit NAIT legislation again in coming months after consulting on more changes, including making NAIT easier to use.”

National’s Agriculture spokesperson, Nathan Guy, said some changes to the NAIT legislation were needed, but Parliament had been denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise Government amendments which may not be in the best interests of farmers.

The Minister had had months to introduce the Bill into Parliament, but instead had expanded wide-ranging search powers under urgency, he said.

Among Guy’s concerns, Ministry for Primary Industries officials will be able to turn up on farmers’ properties without getting a warrant and seize anything they want, unannounced and without cause.

National had asked Mr O’Connor to send the Bill to a select committee during the two-week Parliamentary recess to allow public input and ensure there are no unintended consequences for farmers. Guy said the Minister refused.

“National proposed amendments during the debate that an officer needs reasonable cause to suspect non-compliance with NAIT before entering the property,” he said.

“We also proposed that these wide-ranging warrantless powers being curtailed, so a NAIT officer can’t seize property without obtaining a warrant.

“Unfortunately, both of these safeguard amendments were voted down by the Government.”

But National did successfully move an amendment that requires the Minister to report to Parliament next year on how these expanded powers are being used.

National reluctantly supported the legislation to improve NAIT’s performance but remains “gravely concerned about the process and invasion of farmer’s privacy”, Guy said.


Submissions show support for a single organic standard

Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor says a majority of public submissions support the Government’s preferred approach of a single set of rules for organic production.

Currently, organic producers can choose to meet voluntary standards or back up their organic claims in other ways.

New Zealand is out of step with many other countries that have a national standard for organic production, Mr O’Connor said.  These standards give their consumers confidence they’re paying premiums for genuine organic products and potentially boosts their market access.

Over the past few months, 85% of 208 people who responded to a consultation said they support a change in the way organics is regulated, with 76%  supporting the Government’s preferred option of a single set of rules for organic production.

The next step is to draft a Cabinet paper to progress work on a national standard that would help build confidence for both our consumers and producers at home and our growing organic export trade.

“The Government is committed to partnering with the primary sector to work smarter not harder and extract more value from what we do now,” Mr O’Connor said.

A summary of the organics consultation submissions and the Cabinet Paper can be seen here.

 Source:  Minister of Food Safety

Minister encourages apiarists to provide bee health data

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor is urging the country’s beekeepers to complete a survey checking the health of the country’s bee stocks.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Colony Loss and Survival survey is an important part of the work the Government and beekeepers do together to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

Typically the surveys are completed by only a third of the apiculture sector of nearly 8000 registered beekeepers, who look after nearly 900,000 hives.

“A united sector builds resilience and can take action on the big issues such as hive overstocking rates, access to floral resources, queen bee performance, seasonal variability in climate and production, and pest and disease management,” O’Connor said.

“Working with the thriving mānuka honey industry, we recently introduced the science definition to protect the integrity of exports and I strongly believe there is more value to extract from our other native honeys. We need to work together to protect the long-term viability of the sector and get more from what we do now.”

The 2017 survey showed bee colony losses in New Zealand continue to be significantly lower than many other countries. Annual hive losses were reported at 9.84% overall.

But, O”Connor said

” … we need to monitor trends and collect as much information as possible to protect our bees.”

Registered beekeepers will receive the survey from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in September.

Source:  Minister for Agriculture

Science category included in 2018 NZ Biosecurity Awards

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has announced the opening of nominations for New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, to celebrate the people who help to keep New Zealand’s flora, fauna and vital primary sectors.

His remarks can be viewed and heard HERE. 

The awards were launched last year with six categories.  Three new categories have been added this year – Emerging Leader, Innovation and Science awards.

Entrants might be innovators, scientists, communities, or leaders – anyone who has taken an active interest in the continuous improvement of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, Mr O’Connor said.

“The awards are a way to thank and shine a light on people and organisations who are protecting Aotearoa – in our communities, businesses, science organisations, iwi and hapū, and central and local government.

“Biosecurity is our number one challenge because it is critical to our economic base and way of life. Recent reports show that only 2 per cent of Kiwis feel a biosecurity breach would affect their lives – I think this level of awareness is changing and there’s a growing understanding that every New Zealander has personal responsibility for ensuring we maintain a resilient and strong biosecurity system.”

Finalists will be announced on Friday 12 October and winners named on Monday 12 November at an awards dinner in Auckland.

Entries are open until 31 August.

The award categories are:

  • New Zealand Biosecurity Community Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Industry Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Emerging Leader Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Local and Central Government Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Innovation Award
  • Minister’s Biosecurity Award

You can find out more HERE.

Source:  Minister of Biosecurity

Consultation opens on domestic mānuka honey standards

The Government wants to hear from mānuka honey producers and consumers on whether the honey produced and sold in New Zealand should meet similar requirements to exported mānuka honey.

Agriculture and Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor opened the consultation at the Apiculture New Zealand conference and trade exhibition in Blenheim.

He recalled that in December 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries introduced a robust scientific definition for exported New Zealand mānuka honey to safeguard the industry from cowboy operators and protect New Zealand’s trade reputation.

The next step is to consider options for mānuka honey sold in New Zealand.

“The mānuka honey industry is worth nearly $180 million to New Zealand, although it’s not known what portion stays in the country and this consultation will also help us to better understand that,” Damien O’Connor said.

Email submissions to by 5pm on Monday 17 September 2018.

More information can be found HERE. 

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries 

New initiatives to support M.bovis response

Minister for Biosecurity Damien O’Connor has unveiled a set of initiatives to support the Mycoplasma bovis response and improve farm biosecurity practices based on feedback from farmers and rural communities.

Big numbers of farmers have been attending the Mycoplasma bovis roadshow meetings, Mr O’Connor said.  They have been interested in the response and in the changes that could be made to help them manage their on-farm biosecurity.

“We have been listening to them and the Ministry for Primary Industries is making a number of changes that can be implemented quickly, without legislation,” he said.

Some farmers have expressed frustration at not being formally told when a neighbour’s farm is identified as an Infected Property.

The Ministry for Primary Industries will start directly informing neighbouring farms of Infected Properties or high-risk properties, enabling farmers to take appropriate steps to improve their on-farm biosecurity and reduce the risk to their own stock.

The aim has been to take a measured step that balances individual privacy concerns with the need for farmers to protect their own farms.

The ministry will also publish a list of the NAIT numbers of all affected animals on its website. This includes all animals associated with or traced from an Infected Property.

 “This will give farmers better information to make informed decisions when purchasing new stock,” Mr O’Connor said.

The ministry will do more, too, to ensure enforcement of the Animal Status Declaration (ASD) form. It is a legal requirement that this form must accompany a consignment of cattle when a stock sale takes place.

Regulatory and legislative changes being considered include:

  • Amending the Animal Products Act to add a new infringement offence for failing to use the ASD form correctly
  • Amending the NAIT Act to bring its search powers in line with the Search and Surveillance Act
  • New regulation to control the use of discarded milk

Mr O’Connor said he was continuing to listen to feedback from farmers and will work with the ministry and industry groups to consider further changes to support strengthened biosecurity practices and compliance in  rural communities.

Source: Minister for Biosecurity

Science investment to support Mycoplasma bovis fight

The Coalition Government is investing $30 million over two years in scientific research to support the fight against Mycoplasma bovis, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

The Government would continue to call on all the available domestic and international scientific expertise to track and eradicate the disease. he said.

“This investment will enable us to address the bigger picture scientific challenge and research new tools in the fight against the disease.

“No other country has attempted eradication, and our farming systems are unique, so there are questions that have never been adequately explored by scientists.

“At the top of the list of priorities will be developing a single animal test. This will help us to provide greater clarity to affected farmers, and help us to understand the spread of the disease and to focus our efforts where they are most needed.”

The work will be overseen by a Ministry for Primary Industries’ led Strategic Science Advisory Group.

“The group will work on ensuring we have the tools we need to better manage and understand the disease, so we can be faster, more efficient and more effective in our response to it,” Mr O’Connor said.

The newly-appointed MPI Departmental Science Adviser, Dr John Roche, will assemble and lead the group, which will include both international and domestic scientific expertise.

Dr Roche has a PhD in ruminant nutrition from the National University of Ireland and has most recently worked as a principal scientist at DairyNZ and adjunct professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity