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The Christchurch man has just taken up the newly created Ministry for Primary Industries job of northern South Island regional engagement manager for the M. bovis eradication programme.
He said the arrival of the bacterial cattle disease in July 2017 showed the world was becoming borderless. New Zealand could no longer assume its isolation made it safe, and it was now ‘‘exceptionally important’’ Kiwi farmers took biosecurity precautions.
Mr Woods is one of three new ministry appointees. Former M. bovis welfare adviser Jo Ward is his Southland equivalent, and Jeanie Allport is taking care of the North Island from her Waikato base.
Mr Woods said he liked to think of the role as a bridge-builder between farming communities, rural professionals and the M. bovis programme.
Engagement was a two-way process, with information flowing in both directions.
He had worked in the primary sector for about 30 years. He had done Tb testing and parasite management, and spent 20 years in the stock and station industry and 10 as a livestock broker, Mr Woods said.
He farmed 140ha in partnership with his wife and had experienced first-hand the pressures of being under a notice of direction — a legal direction restricting movements of animals and risk goods off a farm that had likely received a transfer of cattle from an infected farm, or had a bulk milk positive result, and testing was under way.
‘‘I was lucky. I was in and out of the programme within a month and a-half.’’
The processes were getting quicker for many of the farmers caught up in the outbreak, he said.
Mr Woods said his experience, combined with his work history, meant he understood others’ predicaments.
‘‘It gives me a bit of perspective. I know what’s going to be going through their heads.’’
When he attended the recent New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch, the response from farmers had been ‘‘fantastic’’.
‘‘People want to be able to talk, and talk to someone who is a bit rough round the edges.’’
Mr Woods said he was available to speak to groups or at meetings as keeping people informed was a priority, he said.
He was still farming about 40ha in the evening and at weekends.
Mr Woods said he and Mrs Ward would share the South Canterbury-North Otago area until another manager was appointed for that region.
Mrs Ward said she saw her role as including an element of myth-busting.
She would meet with farmers, communities and other stakeholders at events such as A&P shows, field days and conferences.
A born-and-bred Southlander, she worked for the Ministry of Social Development for 12 years and Netball South for two.