Industry commits $11.2m to 'M. bovis'

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
Industry bodies have committed $11.2million towards funding the operational costs of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak response.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has estimated that total operational costs of $35million and compensation liabilities of $60million will be required until a decision on whether or not to eradicate the disease is made.

It was expected a decision on eradication would be made in late March to early April. Bulk milk testing and animal tracing was key to that.

Since the disease was first detected in New Zealand, on a property near Waimate, in July last year, MPI has spent $10million on the operational response and $2.5million on compensation claims.

Funding of $85million for operational and compensation costs, beginning July 1, 2017 to the end of the current financial year, was approved by Cabinet this week, after $10million was approved in December.

DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association's decision to give $11.2million towards operational costs was a sign of a ''healthy Government-industry relationship'', Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said.

It allowed the ministry to continue to contain the disease to determine its full spread, keeping the option of eradication open until that decision was made in a few weeks, Mr O'Connor said.

Significant work was under way to look at the technical feasibility of eradication and cost benefit of eradication versus long-term management. Either option would require additional funding, he said.

Mr O'Connor had also asked officials to explore the feasibility and implications of making the North Island Mycoplasma bovis free, given the large majority of infected properties were in the South Island.

There were currently 24 active infected properties, including a newly identified property in Mid Canterbury.

It was a lifestyle dry stock grazing property which was a trace from a known infected property.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said the Government must move quickly to pay compensation.

The disease had become a widespread problem in Southland and he had been ''overwhelmed'' by messages from farmers seeking support and clarity.

''Now that funding has been made available it needs to be paid out as soon as possible, as some farmers are on their last legs.

''I've had grown men break down in tears to me, talking about how they can't pay their bills, can't sleep at night and are not leaving their properties or socialising because they're feeling so ashamed about the situation they've found themselves in,'' he said.

Farmers also needed timelines to work with, especially with Gypsy Day for the annual movement of stock fast approaching. He urged affected farmers to lodge claims for compensation.

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