Focus on Nait as biosecurity given top priority

Damien O'Connor
Damien O'Connor
Against a backdrop of Mycoplasma bovis and myrtle rust incursions, it is hardly surprising world-class biosecurity retains the top priority in KPMG's Agribusiness Agenda.

The report, launched this week at National Fieldays at Mystery Creek, followed input from primary sector leaders.

The past year had ''not been great'' for biosecurity with the arrival of myrtle rust, increasing risk from the brown marmorated stink bug, and the slow spread of Mycoplasma bovis across the country, highlighting weaknesses in how the industry had been using the National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) system, the report said.

The key message from contributors was simple - Nait must be made to work properly and there must be consequences for those who failed to use the system to track stock movements.

It was also noted using the system was both frustrating and time-consuming, particularly for those without high-speed connectivity.

The failure to utilise Nait correctly created a perception that the industry was, to some extent, culpable for its own biosecurity issues, and that was hard for the industry to argue against.

The lack of complete information had slowed the national response and wasted taxpayer funds, the report said.

The Mycoplasma bovis incursion highlighted the risk associated with implementing rules and then not enforcing them.

The industry needed to step up and take ownership of its biosecurity exposures. It was fortunate that Mycoplasma bovis was not foot and mouth disease - ''we may not be so lucky next time'', the report said.

Every person in the industry had a role to play in mitigating the risk associated with a biosecurity incursion.

Farmers must provide their staff with biosecurity awareness training so they could spot risk factors.

Processors needed to purchase only correctly documented stock, and rural support organisations needed to get alongside the industry and support it to better manage the risk that it faced.

Agriculture and biosecurity minister Damien O'Connor said the Government was in line with sector leaders when it came to biosecurity.

In a statement, Mr O'Connor said a pleasing result from the survey was recognition from industry that biosecurity was ''everyone's job''.

''The strong partnership formed between industry and Government in the fight against Mycoplasma bovis has demonstrated that we can come together effectively when needed. But there's plenty of work to do to improve our ability to respond effectively to major incursions,'' he said.

High on the list was improving compliance with Nait and he had instructed officials to make appropriate improvements, including making it easier to use.

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