150,000 cows to be culled; plan will cost $886m
Now is the time for Wairarapa communities to come to the support of farmers after the government decided on Monday to attempt to eradicate the cow disease, Mycoplasma bovis.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government expected more than 150,000 cattle to be culled in a world-first bid to eradicate the disease.
Eradication will cost an estimated $886 million over 10 years, still well under the $1.3 billion cost over 10 years of not acting.
The Government will meet 68 per cent of the cost and Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand will meet the remainder.
The closest the disease has come to Wairarapa is on a Landcorp sheep and beef station near Pahiatua.
The Ministry of Primary Industries announced earlier this month that a handful of Wairarapa farms were considered “at risk”.
Wairarapa Federated Farmers president William Beetham said it was good to have a “clear decision” on the future of the disease.
However, the key issue was support for farmers of infected herds.
“If it is found [in Wairarapa], then it’s really important that we get around those farmers and support them, and help them through what will be a very difficult time.”
Mr Beetham said there needed to be more information as soon as possible about compensation.
If possible, a more “robust” testing system was required to help identify the disease in cattle.
It was “very dangerous” for farmers to second-guess the Government’s decision to eradicate, the industry’s support for the decision, and the processes around that, he said.
“It important to remember these are leaders in our industry and they are there for a reason.”
Mr Beetham said farmers needed to treat this biosecurity issue seriously and ensure they had good processes in place to manage biosecurity on their own farms.
East Coast Rural Support Trust Wairarapa chairman and Te Whiti farmer Neil McLaren said there were many “uncertainties” for farmers going forward with eradication.
The implications of the disease, such as culling stock and buying restrictions, would put a lot of pressure on them, he said.
Mr McLaren said not to eradicate would affect the country’s economy and farmers more than what the Government is spending on the attempt.
He hoped the Government would allocate more funding for the trust to support farmers along the east coast.
Carterton dairy farmer John Stevenson said most of the country’s dairy farmers would say New Zealand produced the highest quality milk in the world, making it their “competitive advantage”.
However, he said the Government needed to be sure the “hole in the fence where the disease came in is repaired”.
Mr Stevenson said it was hard not to sympathise for the farmers who were having their herds culled – “they’re like family sometimes”.
Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said he was “a little bit surprised” by the decision, but appreciated it was the experts’ decision.
His surprise was due to the disease being hard to track and identify in animals.
“If they have made that decision, I back them – but there are so many risks.”
Mr Scott said more work needed to go into preventing the disease coming back into the country after years of culling herds.