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14 October 1996
The Ministry of Agriculture has agreed to release the comments of those who carried out the peer review of the Application to import rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) into New Zealand as a rabbit control tool.
The Ministry has agreed to release the information, after receiving several requests under the Official Information Act. The opinion of the Ombudsman’s office is that there was an overriding public interest to release the information. “Although the Ombudsman’s opinion is not necessarily legally binding, it is the Ministry’s policy to comply with such opinions,” said MAF’s Deputy Director General, Dr. Peter O’Hara, who will be the decision-maker on the RCD Application.
The comments will released to those who ask for them, upon payment of $80 to cover the cost of printing the material, which is very substantial, and freight. This is in line with the cost-recovery provisions of the Official Information Act.
The Ministry had intended to release the comments at the conclusion of the decision making process, so as not to distract public attention and discussion from the Application itself, which is the subject of a two month public submission period. There was also some concern that they could be subject to attempts to influence their comments.
Dr. O’Hara said the task of the peer reviewers was to ensure the Application was free of gross errors or omissions in the relevant science before it was released for public comment. “In some cases, this meant that the peer reviewers comments were critical of aspects of the Application, but it was their task to identify any perceived deficiencies prior to public comment,” Dr. O’Hara said.
“Their role did not involve making any recommendations regarding whether or not the Application should be granted, and most explicitly stated that their critiques should not be taken to imply that they were for or against the introduction of RCD.”
The peer reviewers assessed the document separately and individually, from the perspective of their specific area of expertise, not collectively as a group.
The peer review was carried out by:
Department of Conservation
Ministry for the Environment
Ministry of Health
Te Puni Kokiri
Ecosystems Consultants, Dunedin
Mo Salmon, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, Colorado State University
Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen
Ministry of Agriculture
Where the comments were received from an organisation, the names of the individuals who participated in the review have been removed.
Public submissions on the Application opened on 5 September and will close on 4 November.
To date, 148 submissions have been received.
Media inquiries to:
Dr. Peter O’Hara, Deputy Director General (04) 474 4838
Debbie Gee, Manager, Corporate Communications (04) 474 4258