Vir­tual out­break of foot-and-mouth a test

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

The Gov­ern­ment is to test the coun­try’s pre­pared­ness for a foot-and-mouth out­break, one of a se­ries of re­views of New Zealand’s biose­cu­rity poli­cies this year.

In March the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Forestry will lead a desk­top ex­er­cise in­volv­ing the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment, po­lice and de­fence, to test how the coun­try would try to con­tain a dis­ease that would cause a tem­po­rary halt to vir­tu­ally all meat and dairy ex­ports.

It is the first re­view of its kind since 2005 al­though there was a hoax on Wai­heke Is­land the same year.

Min­istry di­rec­tor gen­eral Wayne Mc­nee said a ma­jor biose­cu­rity breach was the one el­e­ment of his job that kept him awake at night. The fast-mov­ing na­ture of foot-and-mouth would act as a test for many other biose­cu­rity breaches.

‘‘Be­cause of the na­ture of the dis­ease there’s an in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod, so be­fore you even get the symp­toms the dis­ease has al­ready been in the coun­try for some time, and [once de­tected] you have to act very, very quickly to shut down move­ment.’’

Al­though New Zealand has never had an out­break of foot-and-mouth dis­ease – an in­cur­able vi­ral dis­ease that af­fects cloven-hoofed an­i­mals such as cat­tle, pigs and sheep – the min­istry es­ti­mates an in­cur­sion could cost 20,000 jobs and knock $10 bil­lion off the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct over two years, with all meat and dairy ex­ports tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended.

An out­break in Bri­tain led to 10 mil­lion sheep and cat­tle be­ing slaugh­tered and cost the coun­try an es­ti­mated £8 bil­lion (NZ$15.8B) in dam­age to its econ­omy.

Mr Mc­nee has an­nounced an in­de­pen­dent re­port will be com­mis­sioned into the de­ci­sion to al­low the im­port of pollen, which was high­lighted as a pos­si­ble cause of the Psa virus breach­ing New Zealand’s bor­ders, caus­ing se­ri­ous dam­age to the ki­wifruit in­dus­try.

The re­view would look at the ev­i­dence used to al­low the im­port and ‘‘whether we should have done more re­views with the pass­ing of time’’.

An­other re­view will look at how a prod­uct to grow straw­ber­ries in a pot, which could have in­tro­duced new plant dis­eases into New Zealand, came to be for sale on the shelves in The Ware­house with­out go­ing through the proper tests last year.

The min­istry or­dered a re­call af­ter the Buzzy branded pots were spot­ted by a min­istry staff mem­ber.

Mr Mc­nee also planned to look at whether the min­istry was us­ing its le­gal pow­ers to prop­erly pun­ish peo­ple at­tempt­ing to smug­gle in or­ganic mat­ter that threat­ened New Zealand’s biose­cu­rity, or whether he needed to seek greater leg­isla­tive power.

BE PRE­PARED: The Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Forestry will lead an ex­er­cise to test how the coun­try would try to con­tain a dis­ease that would halt our meat and dairy in­dus­try.

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