Agriculture and biosecurity minister Damien O’Connor says work will start immediately to improve New Zealand’s animal tracing system in the wake of an outbreak of the cattle disease mycoplasma bovis.
“After securing the release of the year-late report on the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system last month, officials have worked through the 38 recommendations and advised 23 can be implemented promptly by the management agency OSPRI,” O’Connor said.
“NAIT has let us down in a time of great need as we manage the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak."
O'Connor said the fight against mycoplasma bovis has been slowed by the poor uptake of NAIT.
"For the minority of farmers who fully complied with NAIT, the tracing of animals for mycoplasma bovis has been smooth," he added. “This is why it’s crucial we fix the system. NAIT is hard to use and farmers have not been told of the benefits of compliance."
Since the outbreak was first reported last July, stock on 39 farms have been slaughtered. The Ministry of Primary Industries is expected to decide whether to continue to try and eradicate the disease or to shift strategy to manage it by the end of the month.
The changes will see the NAIT number assigned to a particular location – not a person; the NAIT interface will be improved to make it easier to enter information and a mobile app will be developed for use in the field.
The performance of accredited agencies will also be better managed, particularly those providing information to NAIT on behalf of farmers.
“I’ve asked officials to take a tougher approach to NAIT compliance and the Ministry for Primary Industries will work with OSPRI to do this," O'Connor said.
As an interim measure, MPI’s animal welfare officers will carry out NAIT enforcement as part of their regular farm visits. Farmers need to ensure they meet their legal NAIT obligations.
“MPI will also work with OSPRI to identify appropriate performance targets that will allow regular monitoring and evaluation of the scheme’s performance," O'Connor said.
Most of the remaining 15 recommendations require regulation or legislation change to implement, the minister said.
“Officials will consider whether transporters should have a formal role in the NAIT scheme and the timing for bringing in other animal species," he added.
"We need a modern and robust animal tracing system to keep our primary sector and economy safe. There will be consultation before we move any further on the remaining recommendations."