Farmers welcome `M. bovis' MP group

Jason Grant
Jason Grant
A cross-political-party grouping of MPs in Parliament taking a combined approach in dealing with the Ministry of Primary Industry's response to Mycoplasma bovis is being welcomed by farmers.

''I haven't heard about it but it is definitely a good thing,'' South Canterbury Federated Farmers president Jason Grant said.

''It shows that politicians are taking the problems of M. bovis and compensation seriously and working together.''

South Canterbury Federated Farmers dairy chairman Ads Henriks agreed it was a good idea and felt it would be needed.

Asked if MPI had lifted their game in recent times after a great deal of negative publicity, he said he was unsure.

''I won't give details but it's what I hear in the background and there are some disturbing things coming to my attention that concern me.''

National MP Andrew Falloon said the recent surge of 1100 properties considered to be at some risk was greatly disappointing.

''Following the surge I spoke to Mark Patterson of New Zealand First about working in a more collaborative manner across Parliament.''

A meeting has since been held involving Mr Falloon and Mr Patterson as well as other MPs - Labour's Damien O'Connor (Minister of Agriculture) and Rino Tirakatene and National's Nathan Guy, Barbara Kuriger, David Bennett and Hamish Walker.

''Up until now it's been individual MPs or political parties battling with MPI over how they've been treating farmers,'' Mr Falloon said.

''Bringing cases to one table means we're now better able to compare how farmers are being dealt with in one location compared to others.

''Already we've been able to get progress and an undertaking from MPI that they'll prioritise historical compensation claims, some of which are more than a year old.''

He said the politics had been taken out as they wanted to ensure farmers were being treated fairly.

''One of the big issues is delay in compensation and I've got cases where they haven't received full compensation.

''In Canterbury we're dealing with two to three which have not received compensation in six months and there have been further delays with a larger number of farmers.''

He said MPI had improved in their communication with farmers, but at times they had shown lack of human empathy which added to farmers' stress.

''The idea now is to meet regularly,'' he said.

Mr Henriks said at times there had been a lot of procrastination over compensation and the Government, and MPI's notification of more Nait restrictions just before Easter had come ''like a bomb.''

''There was no chance for us to respond, they were all away on leave over Easter. There's no reason why the information couldn't have come out earlier.

''There are a lot of different opinions on whether we should or shouldn't eradicate. A lot of countries have learned to live with the disease and it depends what strain you've got.''

He said there was a great deal of pressure on people such as 50/50 sharemilkers, whose entire livelihood was in the value of their cows.

''The Rural Support Trusts have done an enormous amount of work in the last year,'' he said.

Last week MPI head scientist John Roche said at Fieldays at Hamilton it would take years to eradicate M. bovis and that current testing methodology for the disease was not accurate.

-By Chris Tobin

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