Delaying the introduction of new water reforms was not an option according to the two cabinet Ministers directly involved – Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.
O’Connor told Dairy News that it’s good to provide clarity to farmers and sharemilkers, worried about the important event in the dairy farming calendar.
“We have been working on this for some time and were aware of its importance, but also mindful that the restrictions under level 4 are quite tough. Level 3 is different and if we are at level 2 by June 1 that will just be sensible requirement by all those sharemilkers that travel around the country,” he says
O’Connor says if we are still at level 3, then people will have to be a lot more careful with everything and lot stricter on how they interact with their transport options and the movement of everything required on that day.
After weeks of talks between stakeholders, Gypsy day or Moving Day will go ahead on June 1 but with strict protocols in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This day marks the first day of the dairy season: a large number of dairy farming families, sharemilkers, contract milkers and employees move to new farms to start new employment and milking contracts.
This year it’s estimated that between 1500 and 2000 farm businesses will be involved: with staff and family members included, around 20,000 people will be on the move.
With COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Gypsy Day will be different. Moving stock and households to new farms must be done in accordance with strict procedures to adhere to health and safety regulations relating to COVID-19.
It’s not known what alert level NZ may be in on that day, but O’Connor says regardless of that, Moving Day will go ahead.
O’Connor says if the country was in alert level 4, the dairy sector should limit activities to only those that cannot be deferred.
Other protocols include people remaining in their bubbles, limiting face-to-face contact and maintaining up-to-date NAIT and other animal movement records.
O’Connor says this annual movement is a critical part of the dairy industry – an industry that contributes over $18 billion a year in exports to the economy and provides jobs for around 46,000 people.
“It’s also an industry that will play a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery after COVID-19, so it was vital that Moving Day went ahead. Since the Alert Level 4 lockdown was announced, and dairy farming was deemed an essential service, the Government has been committed to finding a way to enable it to proceed,” he says.
O’Connor says the Government has been working with leaders from organisations including DairyNZ, Fonterra, Federated Farmers and FMG to find solutions that work for those in the sector and protect the economy, without jeopardising anyone’s health and safety.
A good common-sense solution to what could have been a very big problem. That’s how the chairman of Federated Farmers Sharemilkers section, Richard McIntyre describes the outcome. McIntyre says he was part of the industry group dubbed ‘team ag approach’, which worked through all the scenarios and then put forward a proposal to Ministry of Primary Industries for approval.
“We discussed all the possibilities, including if it didn’t go ahead, what if it was delayed by one to three months, and how it might work on 1 June as planned,” he says.
McIntyre praised MPI and the other organisations for working positively to find a solution.