$30m a year for bovine Tb work

The Government has committed $30 million a year for the next four years to manage bovine tuberculosis (Tb), but at the same time AgResearch has ended research to find alternative possum control methods.

The Government's contribution takes its funding for the programme to control vectors of bovine Tb to $82 million a year, and it will be matched by $45 million a year from the beef, deer and dairy industries and $6 million from regional councils.

Since 1994, the number of infected deer and cattle herds have fallen from more than 1700 to 98 as at June this year.

However, the funding announcement coincides with news that AgResearch has effectively ended research to discover new possum control tools, with a scientist and two technicians at its Invermay campus being made redundant on Christmas Eve.

The unit failed to get funding from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) for its possum-control work, which centred on finding alternatives to the current use of 1080 poison-laced cereal bait, such as new possum-specific toxins and a way to interrupt reproduction.

Another five research centres will continue research into new toxins and possum control.

In announcing its new strategic plan, the Animal Health Board plans to eventually eradicate Tb in wildlife from 2.5 million ha, or one quarter of the area where the board considers there is a wild animal disease risk.

The board said the Environmental Risk Management Authority's recent annual report on the aerial use of 1080 showed high standards were being applied to pest control operations.

There was a significant decrease in incidents and complaints in the year ended December 31, 2009, with just 17 logged, compared with 30 the year before.

Board operational policy manager Nick Hancox said while the report acknowledged there was room for improvement, it also found progress was being made.

More than 60 research projects were proposed to find alternative pest control methods and improvements in 1080 use and on new toxins, such as zinc phosphide and sodium nitrite.

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