A pigs-might-fly punt by
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt may earn the city millions of
dollars, as a biotech firm is planning to put pig parts into
Asked to come up with $1200 to feed some Invercargill-based
Auckland Island pigs by some indigenous breed enthusiasts in
1999, Mr Shadbolt fielded some flak from councillors and
ratepayers when the feeding bill ballooned to $12,000, all
from the Mayoral Contingency Fund.
"These pigs just took to Southland conditions. They dined on
porridge and swedes and they became raging sexual beasts,
producing larger litters than they did on the Auckland
Unfortunately for the mayor, his council and ratepayers were
not so amused.
"They took the fund off me and renamed it the Council
Contingency Fund," he said.
But Mr Shadbolt is likely to have the last laugh next month
when his initial support for the project begins to bear
"It has all come to fruition, and I rub it into those people
who didn't support me at every opportunity," he said.
Melbourne biotech company Living Cells Technologies (LCT) is
investing in a mutimillion-dollar quarantine and research
facility between Invercargill and Bluff.
It is developing a cell-based product to treat
life-threatening diseases including type 1 diabetes.
The company used microencapsulated islet cells from the
descendants of Mr Shadbolt's Auckland Island pigs in trials
in Russia last year.
The small number of patients experienced no adverse reaction
and several reported a significant reduction in their insulin
needs despite the use of small doses, LCT chief executive
Paul Tan said.
"It was very encouraging."
Led by Auckland scientist Dr Bob Elliott, the company is
hoping to conduct New Zealand clinical trials and is awaiting
a decision by Minister of Health David Cunliffe.
The decision is expected next month.
"We are very hopeful," Dr Tan said.
"We are an international company but we have a loyalty to New
Zealand and want to conduct trials here."
Mr Cunliffe has asked for further consultation from the
National Health Committee on the xenotransplantation
application from LCT on August 8.
Dr Tan said if the company got the go-ahead, facilities would
be built in Auckland and Invercargill to house the special
"The Auckland Island pigs are quite unique. They have been
isolated from all other herds for more than 200 years and are
disease-free," Dr Tan said.
The company could produce commercial quantities within five
years of the first clinical trials, he said.
Venture Southland strategic projects manager Steve Canny said
having LCT set up a facility in the province was "fantastic".
"This has enormous potential and could not only provide a
diverse range of jobs in the future but also help an enormous
number of people."
It is expected more than 11,000 New Zealanders have type 1
While Mr Shadbolt is hoping LCT will find a cure for
diabetes, he is also hoping for another possible side-effect.
"I want the reinstatement of my Mayoral Contingency Fund," he