Owner of Mycoplasma bovis-infected farm says Govt has 'no clue' what it's doing

The owner of the south Canterbury farm which first reported the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak says the Government has no idea what it's doing.

On Monday the Government announced its decision to try and eradicate the disease, which has been detected at more than 30 farms across the country. It means culling another 126,000 cows at least, on top of the 22,000 already being culled.

No other country in the world - including the UK, Australia and the US - has successfully eradicated the disease, instead opting to manage the symptoms.

Farm owner Wilma Van Leeuwen claims authorities have no clue what they're doing.

"MPI have admitted that they don't know when, where it came into the country. So how on earth can you eradicate something that you don't even know how widespread it is?"

The eradication programme will take place over a decade, but most is to be done in two years. The Government says eradication is cheaper and more beneficial than managing the disease in the long-term. It will cost $886 million over the next 10 years.

The Opposition is backing the Government's decision, but National Party's agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says the process needs to be handled carefully.

"All the information that I've seen suggests this is the right decision for farming families throughout New Zealand.

"I'm also very mindful of the fact that the emotional toll on farming families is going to get greater."

While dairy experts are sceptical over whether the disease can actually be eradicated, Lincoln University professor Keith Woodford says there is potential for it to work.

"It's going to be a big challenge, but thankfully there are some off-ramps in spring if it's not working."

Veterinarian Alan Piercy warns there needs to be more transparency from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) if New Zealand is to have any chance of success.

"I think MPI needs to tell us who the experts are and what their credentials are and what experience they may or may not have in actually dealing with an outbreak," he says.

At Monday's announcement Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a difficult decision.

"This is a tough call. No one ever wants to see mass culls, but the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease to the national herd."

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says eradication is possible because the disease is not widespread.

"We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease - we should take it."


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