If there was a more virulent variety of rabbit haemorrhagic
disease in Australia that could be useful in New Zealand,
then the Government would not say it could not be introduced.
However, Primary Industries Minister David Carter told
farmers at the deer industry conference they would have to
"engage with the process" to introduce it.
After his address to the conference, Mr Carter answered a
wide variety of questions from the floor.
Haldon Station manager Paddy Boyd understood there had been
some further scientific work done in Australia isolating a
component of the existing virus that knocked down any immune
He asked if the Government was party to that and if it was
likely it would be allowed to be introduced into New Zealand
to help in rabbit-prone country.
Mr Carter said he "did not in any way" support the way RHD
(then known as rabbit calicivirus disease) was introduced in
1997, when it was illegally imported to control rabbit
That sort of "cavalier attitude" to biosecurity should not be
applauded, he said.
However, he knew the industry, particularly in the
rabbit-ravaged Mackenzie, might have done something in
That was history now - "it's here" - although he had been
advised, if it had been done in a more controlled fashion, it
might have got a more successful result.
If more virulent strains were being developed in Australia,
"then engage with the process to bring them in", he said.
Biological controls were introduced in New Zealand on a
regular basis but through a process by which science judged
the risk if the experiment was to go wrong, he said.
One farmer expressed concern about how regional councils were
handling the big emphasis in recent times on improving water
quality in farming systems.
Some councils had seen "huge growth", particularly in
dairying operations, in parts of their areas, "which actually
probably shouldn't have happened".
Now there were ramifications and the councils wanted to
"change our water overnight" with regimes that were in some
While farmers all wanted to improve their water quality,
there were many people in councils with no rural background
or knowledge of farming, and they had considerable power, he
Mr Carter thought some regional councils were coming to the
issue "a bit late and ill-prepared" and there might be a rush
by some to get up to speed.
He spoke about the Land and Water Forum, which brought
together a range of industry groups, environmental and
recreational non-governmental organisations, iwi, scientists
and other organisations with an interest in freshwater and
The aim was to get all to respect each other's point of view
"so we can make better use of water but acknowledge that, as
we develop and deliver irrigation, it won't be about
irrigation at all costs".
"We have to find a way to irrigate this land but be prepared
to contain or mitigate the environmental impact."
The Government had to give the regional councils more
guidance and would be doing that.
If a council would not operate constructively, then the fate
of Environment Canterbury, where the councillors were sacked
and replaced by commissioners, was an example of how the
Government was prepared to "step up and deal with it".
Wanaka farmer Richard Burdon sought an update on Resource
Management Act reforms, saying it was starting to have a big
impact in the district.
Resource consent was needed to put up a centre pivot; putting
in a track required a landscape architect to view it and it
was "becoming a very difficult part of the farming business".
Mr Carter said the first part of the RMA reform had been in
action for a couple of years, while phase two was being
worked on by Environment Minister Amy Adams.
It was hoped to have it before Parliament towards the end of
the year so it could go through the select committee process,
to be passed into legislation, probably by mid-2013.
Mr Carter was tackled on the sale of the Crafar farms to
Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin by a farmer concerned that,
as the farms were sold in one entity, it took most New
Zealand farmers and companies out of contention.
Mr Carter was "completely supportive" of foreign investment,
saying New Zealand did not have enough capital to expand its
He personally thought the investment, particularly that it
was Chinese, would be "good for New Zealand".
Deer Industry New Zealand chairman Andy Macfarlane asked how
he believed the Government could contribute "to the
confidence people in the city have that farmers are doing the
Mr Carter believed the past few years had explained to most
New Zealanders how dependent the economy was on the primary
"What has brought us through the global financial crisis has
indeed been our dependence on the primary sector for economic
growth and I think most New Zealanders, if they want to read
the tea leaves, actually realise that."
One area in which the industry had a part to play was around
issues of lapses in both environmental and animal welfare
management. Any of those stories "that get on the front page
of any paper" not only became instant New Zealand news but
instant international news, he said.