Farmers are being encouraged to have their say on a proposal to move the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) eradication programme into a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) as the cross-sector effort moves to a new phase.
M. bovis governance group independent chair Kelvan Smith says eradication partners – DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and the Ministry for Primary Industries – are seeking farmers’ views on the NPMP.
"All our evidence indicates we are in the tail end of the outbreak, meaning we are focused on building evidence that M. bovis is not present, rather than tracing risk events associated with active infection in our national herd," says Mr Smith.
"With no active confirmed infection in New Zealand we have made good progress, but it hasn’t been easy getting here. The 3 partners recognise this and want to ensure that the ongoing activity causes minimal disruption to farmers.
OSPRI has been nominated as the management agency in the NPMP proposal.
"With natural synergies in running the M. bovis Programme alongside National Animal Identification & Tracing (NAIT) and the TBFree Programme, there is potential for up to $15m in savings across the 3 programmes.
"We all know how crucial the NAIT system is for the timely tracing of cattle that may have been in contact with infected cattle, and the programme can achieve efficiencies by aligning some aspects of M. bovis testing alongside TB testing.
"By combining resources and capability, it will allow the programme to continue to adapt to the work that remains ahead of us and help strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity system," says Mr Smith.
"The efforts and sacrifices of farmers cannot be overstated, and the improvements we’ve seen to on-farm biosecurity is heartening. Farmers have been significantly impacted by M. bovis but have also played a key role in the programme making the progress it has. We owe it to the wider sector to continue building on these successes.
"The current administrative model has worked well, providing the necessary support and resources to get us to where we are now. With the next few years focused on background surveillance, a different model, and some different capability, is required to ensure we are getting the best value for the taxpayer and farmer levy payers."
While it is expected farmers and rural groups directly affected by M. bovis will notice very little difference under the proposed model, programme partners are seeking feedback on some key changes including:
- establishment of a National Plan, with OSPRI appointed as the agency to administer the programme and manage disease to achieve eradication,
- formalising disease control activities through a set of 15 rules to support the eradication objective, and
- new reduced National Plan levy to finance the remainder of the programme.
"The NPMP is open for consultation today and we want to hear from New Zealanders to ensure we end up with a model that works for everyone, especially our farmers who are most impacted by M. bovis," says Mr Smith.
"While there is currently no known active infection, it is possible more will be identified before we can declare the job is done and the proposal includes contingency arrangements for OSPRI to eradicate any small numbers of cases of infection subsequently identified in future."
Feedback on the draft proposal is being sought from the public, especially from those who play an important part in the ongoing success of the eradication effort including farmers, meat and dairy processors, testing labs, and vets. All are invited to provide feedback during public consultation from 14 August to 25 September 2023.
"We believe our proposal will ensure the programme continues to adapt to the work that remains ahead and make the most of the significant gains made to-date. We look forward to reviewing the feedback from the consultation."
M. bovis Programme numbers, 14 August 2023
- Active Confirmed Properties – 0
- Cleared Confirmed Properties – 280
- Notices of direction (NOD) applied to properties – 2,674
- Tests completed – 3,288,732
- Compensation - total paid – $256.2 million
- Compensation claims paid – 2,901