MAF Expands RCD Consultation

22 January, 1997

People and organisations who made public submissions on the application to import rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) as a rabbit control tool will have a further opportunity to provide input into the decision-making process.

In light of the large number of submissions received (nearly 800) and the complexity of the issues raised, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to provide those who made submissions with another opportunity to comment, to ensure that all the technical issues raised have been adequately considered. MAF also believes the enhanced process provides transparency and assurance that the views expressed in the public submissions have been taken into account.

(See Appendix 2 - flow chart of revised process). The Minister for Biosecurity was consulted in reaching this decision.

MAF wants to be sure that when the Chief Veterinary Officer comes to make his recommendation that all the technical issues will have been thoroughly canvassed.

The further round will commence once the twelve independent reviewers who are reviewing the submissions have made their reports. Each reviewer has been asked to present a report of the issues within their area of expertise.

The reviewers are:

Dr Brian Boag, the Scottish Crop Research Institute, UK (ecologist)
Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, UK, (Dr Glenn Iason) (ecologist)
Prof. Robert E Shope, at the University of Texas Medical Branch ,USA(virologist)
Prof. M D (Mo) Salman, at the Colorado State University, USA (veterinary
Lektos Consulting Limited, Palmerston North, (retaining Emeritus Professor B W (Bill)
Manktelow), (veterinary pathologist)
Massey University, Palmerston North, (Assoc. Prof. Robin Fordham) (ecologist)
Ecosystems Consultants, Dunedin, (Dr Henrik Moller) (ecologist)
Ministry of Health, NZ
Department of Conservation

Te Puni Kokiri
Ministry for the Environment.
MAF is approaching another leading international virologist to work on this task and, when a contract has been finalised, the name of this reviewer will also be released.

The final reports of the reviewers are to be with MAF no later than Friday, 28 February. These reports will then be made available to the RCD Applicant Group, who may wish to respond. At the same time, people and organisations who made submissions will be sent a copy of the reviewers’ reports and asked to advise whether or not their views have beenadequately understood and considered. They will have one calendar month in which to respond to MAF.

The CVO will then prepare a recommendation to the decision-maker, Dr Peter O'Hara. To assist him in preparing his recommendation to the Deputy Director-General, where the Chief Veterinary Officer is satisfied that reviewers’ reports have not adequately addressed issues raised either by the applicant group or submitters, he may contact submitters for further clarification. If necessary, a meeting will be arranged to assist in such clarification.

Summary of Analysis of Submissions Distributed

The executive summary of the analysis of public submissions, prepared by independent resource management consultants Taylor Baines of Christchurch, is being posted today to all people and organisations who made submissions.

They are also being advised that they will have a further chance to comment.

Copies of the full report of the analysis by Taylor Baines and Associates of Christchurch, and the submissions themselves, have been lodged in Link Centres and will be available on order from MAF or GP Print.The full analysts’ report will also be available on the new MAF Internet site ( at a later date.

Media inquiries to:
Dr Barry O’Neil, Chief Veterinary Officer, (04) 474 4100
Paul Goldsmith, Press Secretary to Hon. Simon Upton, Minister for Biosecurity (04) 4719 794

Role of Reviewers
Reviewers have been asked to make a brief preliminary report by 21 January, advising any new significant issues they have identified. A “new significant issue” is defined as: a “new issue or information which would fundamentally alter the approach [of the application]”. MAF will assess all the returns and circulate the results to all reviewers. If any new significant issues are identified, reviewers will be asked, as appropriate, to include specific comment on them in their reports.

The reviewers have also been asked to give their opinion, within their area of expertise, on the following topics, which have been identified by MAF as the major issues raised in the submissions:

Rabbit problem
nature, source and effects of the rabbit problem
current control, effectiveness, costs and alternatives

RCD classification, history and origins
adequacy of knowledge about RCD, the strains, origin and relationship to other members of the Calicivirus group of viruses

Epidemiology of RCD
adequacy of knowledge about the methods of transmission of the virus and the behaviour of
RCD in New Zealand

RCD as a biocontrol agent
assessment of effectiveness and suitability of RCD as a biological control agent
its ability to maintain stated pastoral and environment goals over time

Host range of the virus
the validity of conclusions from the testing of animal species and review of scientific
risk to NZ native spp. especially birds

Risk of human infection
Probability of RCD to mutate and consequences of mutation of RCD
changes in the host range
changes in the virulence

The effects of introduction on New Zealand flora and fauna the prey-switching problem and the need for predator control

Programme to release the virus
definition of the goals and objectives of a release programme for RCD
the character and organisational basis of the programme.
Integration with other control work.

Other issues were raised in the public consultation but MAF has not asked the reviewers to comment on these, because they were either a) not within the reviewers' areas of expertise, (e.g. the decision-making process itself) or b) were consequential upon the decision whether or not to introduce RCD into New Zealand (e.g. conditions for use)

The reviewers have been asked not to address the overall question of whether or not the virus should be introduced.

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