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Last week, Mr Wheeler finally received notification of full compensation for the slaughter of 147 yearling cattle after battling for months to receive it.
His Highgrove farm was placed under a notice of direction in August last year. Although the farm had no positive tests for the disease, he and his wife Jan were ordered to slaughter their cattle. Their property was put in lockdown because it was a tracer property from another farm which had bought calves from Van Leeuwen Dairy Group, the first property in New Zealand where the disease was detected.
The first compensation payment was made in April but Mr Wheeler said it was "nowhere near enough" and he would continue to pursue the matter.
The Biosecurity Act states affected parties should be no better off and no worse off when the Ministry for Primary Industries exercised its powers. But Mr Wheeler said that was not the case — he had ended up a whole lot more worse off.
Mr Wheeler’s compensation claim was painstakingly put together by fellow North Otago farmer and farm management consultant Kerry Dwyer, who has also previously been very critical of MPI’s handling of the compensation process and disease response.
It was very detailed, with more than 30 appendices backing up everything in the claim, Mr Wheeler said.
What particularly irked Mr Wheeler now was that a $1400 account he submitted to cover preparing the claim had not been paid — and he intended pursuing that.
Latterly, a DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand compensation assistance team had been put together to help farmers through the compensation process. It was a free service that was supported by MPI and run independently by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Mr Wheeler believed the $1400 bill was not unreasonable, saying he had been penalised for being "first off the block".
And he could have claimed for a lot more, but he just wanted to be "fair and honest and get it done".
He was frustrated by the ongoing battles with MPI throughout the process and described its response as "absolutely appalling", particularly given the detailed level of information provided.
"The amount of hours I’ve put in from day one through to now of chasing things up and talking to people," he said.
He had been so incensed by the response that he had emailed both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor to tell them how appalling the system was.
He believed the "top tier" management of MPI was the problem, citing an arrogant attitude. And while MPI staff might complain how busy they were and how hard they were working — "at least they are being paid".
"You don’t mind the situation as long as they look after you and get things sorted out — they just haven’t."
Another farmer had commented they did not have a clue how to relate to farmers, Mr Wheeler said.
He was willing to fly to Wellington and meet MPI officials face to face to explain his situation but that was not possible. He had also been through a variety of case managers.
While Mr Wheeler’s property had not had the disease, he felt very sorry for those farmers whose farms had tested positive.
He had been to recent meetings where there were farmers who were "just losing it".
"They were in states — I couldn’t believe how bad they were. I feel sorry for those poor b...," he said.
Two drystock farms — one in the Waikato and another in the Manawatu — were the latest to be confirmed as infected properties.
The farms were both connected to previously identified infected properties through animal movements.
There were now a total of 33 active infected properties as five farms had recently had their status as IPs lifted.
MPI director-general Ray Smith visited Ashburton last week to speak to Federated Farmers and affected farmers about their experiences with phased eradication.
At the meeting, Mr Smith acknowledged "things have not always gone smoothly" and he was committed to working with response head Geoff Gwyn and the rest of the staff in the Mycoplasma bovis directorate to "work on solutions going forward", the latest M.bovis stakeholder update said.