Partnership key to managing foot and mouth disease outbreak

Media contact: Lesley Patston

Strengthening New Zealand’s ability to manage an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) will require close collaboration with the primary industries, farmers and rural communities says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The Ministry and representatives from key animal industry bodies have just spent a day exercising how the first 12 hours of an FMD outbreak would play out.

“New Zealand’s economic prosperity is highly dependant on our current FMD-free status and our ability to manage an outbreak of FMD, should it ever arrive here, says Deputy Director General, Compliance and Response, Andrew Coleman.

“We organised last Thursday’s Exercise Capricorn workshop to familiarise industry with MPI’s initial response procedures, to explore the use of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) and FarmsOnLine applications, and to identify opportunities to enhance communication.

“The connecting threads throughout the day were partnership and communication.”

The scenario was based on a possible FMD outbreak on both a dairy and a beef property and break out sessions worked through the issues surrounding taking urgent measures (for example controls on movements of stock), trade implications and communications.

“At the end of the day, one key theme emerged and that was the absolute imperative to work closely together from the outset of any significant animal disease outbreak,” Mr Coleman says.

Ben O’Brien, General Manager – Market Access, Beef + Lamb New Zealand says Exercise Capricorn was a very good opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the systems in place to manage a disease outbreak and how the initial stages of such an emergency would play out.

“We appreciated the work that had gone into planning the day and it would be fair to say that we left feeling a little more optimistic around the planning that the Ministry has in place for such an event. There is a lot more work to do on joint planning.”

Mr Coleman says over the years, New Zealand’s government agriculture and biosecurity agencies (MPI and its predecessors MAF and MAF Biosecurity New Zealand) have invested significant time and resource into preparing for an FMD outbreak.

"MPI already has a well developed level of general response readiness which has been complemented by specific FMD preparedness work.

"We recognise, however, that being ready to respond to significant animal disease outbreaks requires continuous effort and MPI is making timely and significant improvements to the capability that already exists.” 

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