Tuesday, 29 May 2018 09:55

PM breaks out gumboots

Written by  Mark Daniel
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (right) and Feds president Katie Milne on a Waikato farm last week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (right) and Feds president Katie Milne on a Waikato farm last week.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor stepped into gumboots last Monday at a Waikato dairy farm to hear farmers’ and others’ views on M. bovis.

Judge Valley Dairies, run by John Hayward and Susan O’Regan, played host, hearing Ardern say that though $85 million is earmarked to address the issue, a biosecurity levy may follow. 

Who would pay the levy? people asked, given that though farmers have most to lose from biosecurity incursions, importers or tourists almost always cause them.

The Prime Minister said she would tell MPI and its advisors that farmers want more openness, discussion and a plan for culling or animal management. She also promised prompt action to get compensation paid to affected herd owners.

“At this stage we will continue eradication, but it was important for us to meet farmers and listen to their concerns.”

Dairy farmer and vet Jenni Macky encouraged people to seek more information from government, industry and local sources, and not to assume M. bovis has the same types of vectors as foot and mouth disease. 

She said because the M. bovis bacteria’s cell structure prevents it from surviving outside an animal, ‘clean’ cattle catching the disease by licking posts is unlikely, as is animal infection from ‘dirty’ cattle trucks.

Katie Milne and Chris Lewis from Federated Farmers asked the Government for transparency and inclusiveness in decisionmaking. And don’t let emotions rule, they urged.

Host farmer John Hayward said Judge Valley Dairies operates a “closed gate” policy: all animals spend their lives inside the farm’s boundary fence. But basic biosecurity measures apply, e.g. disinfecting visitors’ footwear. 

Susan O’Regan said the “main worry of livestock farmers is the lack of decision on the right way forward”. 

“Farmers are doers,” she said. “So just tell us what the plan is and we’ll make it happen.”


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