Ministry's slow reaction to moving day 'inadequate'

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has slammed the Ministry for Primary Industries' moving day performance as ''woefully inadequate'', saying some farmers were forced to leave stock on farms.

Permits were required for properties under movement restrictions to move cattle to other farms for annual winter grazing, because of the Mycoplasma bovis incursion.

At a select committee meeting this week, Mr Walker questioned Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor and the head of MPI about the ''snail pace'' at which MPI had been operating over the past several months, and the lack of communication and certainty given to farmers around moving day.

''Like many farmers, I have been frustrated with the glacial pace at which MPI have been moving, leading to some permits not being issued in time for farmers to move stock on June 1, moving day,'' he said.

He had been asking the ministry, since December, to send information to farmers ''well in advance'' to ensure farmers were not faced with the added pressure and stress of not knowing whether they could move their stock.

''Moving day occurred a couple of weeks ago and it disappoints me some farmers were forced to leave stock on their farms because they had been waiting over a month to receive the necessary permits to move stock. Most farms are not set up to handle cows over winter.

''Almost two weeks after moving day, the minister could still not tell me how many farmers are still waiting on permits,'' he said.

MPI did not respond yesterday to a request for comment from the Otago Daily Times.

When contacted, VetSouth managing director Mark Bryan said there was ''no question'' MPI had struggled to understand and meet routine farming calendar deadlines through the Mycoplasma bovis response, and that alone probably caused the greatest angst for most farmers. That impact had been documented previously for other responses overseas.

But rather than dwell on what had happened, what was coming up for farmers needed to be considered, Mr Bryan said.

The issue of waste milk transfer between farms, weaning of dairy calves and risks associated with bringing in (and back) service bulls would all be upon the industry quickly.

He urged MPI to develop strategies to manage those calendar events ''well in advance'' to best alleviate farmers' concerns.

MPI has urged schools to think carefully about holding calf days this year, as a precaution.

The number of traced properties - the number of properties traced from infected properties - was now up to 3178.

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