Group aims to help farmers, improve 'M. bovis' response

Lines of communication between the Ministry for Primary Industries and farmers impacted by cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis have been muddied for too long, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.

Alongside Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley, he chaired the first meeting of the recently formed Waimate/Waitaki Mycoplasma Bovis Advisory Group held at the Waimate District Council on Wednesday.

The group, modelled on a similar Ashburton arrangement, was formed to support the ministry's M. bovis eradication programme and assist with regional decision-making to benefit farmers.

Its membership includes the two mayors, farmers, ministry representatives, Federated Farmers, the Rural Support Trust, and an independent veterinarian.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the aim was to make a positive difference to benefit North Otago and South Canterbury farmers impacted by M. bovis.

"What we want to do is make it easier for the farmers on the ground that are having to deal with M. bovis, in whatever form that may be, and doing what we can to help the local MPI representatives make decisions on the ground rather than going through Wellington.

"We can facilitate so things happen more quickly and farmers can have more certainty . . . the more we can do, the slightly easier it makes it for farmers caught in the midst of it all."

He criticised the ministry's communication with farmers, which he said had "absolutely" been poor from the outset.

"There's a lot of concern . . . and even misunderstanding because there hasn't been enough consistency, and there hasn't been enough quick decision-making. Those things have caused problems that we hope to alleviate as much as possible.

"We really want to make sure the group does meaningful work."

The group is scheduled to meet monthly.

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