MPI pair helping farmers through `M. bovis' process

Ministry for Primary Industries' northern South Island regional managers Lydia Pomeroy (left) and Charlotte Austin's focus is to help farmers through the Mycoplasma bovis programme. Photo: Toni Williams
Ministry for Primary Industries' northern South Island regional managers Lydia Pomeroy (left) and Charlotte Austin's focus is to help farmers through the Mycoplasma bovis programme. Photo: Toni Williams
Empowering farmers working through the Mycoplasma bovis process involves Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) regional managers Charlotte Austin and Lydia Pomeroy working long hours.

But, as a way of being prepared to fight for their cases and keeping up to date with the issues, it is something they are only too happy to do.

''We certainly lose sleep, but we also understand that it's not nearly as big an impact on us.

''That's why we will quite happily work a 12, 13 or 14-hour day 'cos we understand that these individuals are living it,'' said Ms Austin, speaking to media after the recent Mid Canterbury Mycoplasma bovis Advisory Group meeting in Ashburton.

Included in the group are others from MPI, Federated Farmers, Canterbury District Health Board, Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury and Ashburton District Council.

Ms Austin and Ms Pomeroy share the Northern South Island regional manager workload, dealing with the plight of farmers at the northern end of the South Island.

MPI has a team of about 65 people in their region, which is growing as needed, either based in Christchurch or at satellite sites such as those in Ashburton and Tasman. They also have a West Coast presence.

''If you do receive a call from the programme, if you've not already done so, it's a really good opportunity to take a look at the overall business, where you're sitting at with your National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) updates, what your finances look like, as far as have you got access to your files easily,'' Ms Austin said.

The more information farmers had about their business, the easier they could work through the process, and faster.

''If there was anything I could get tattooed on my forehead from this experience it's Nait, Nait, Nait,'' she said.

''When Mycoplasma bovis is all wrapped up we really want to leave the New Zealand biosecurity system in a stronger place, for NZinc essentially and for if, and when, something else comes on to our shores.''

The role of the district's advisory group was to support farmers dealing with the process and to get them safely to the other side.

''Our motivation is to get this farmer through the process. It's never going to be a pain-free process but, as supported as they possibly can be, that includes forming groups like this, so we are able to get into those community networks and wrap that support around those farmers,'' Ms Austin said.

The individuals working at the coalface were from the districts, often knew the people and understood the problem.

Ashburton Mayor Donna Favel said feedback suggested the community was ''very fortunate to have these regional managers working on behalf of our farmers in the district''.

''They are in there fighting for our cases.''

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