New MPI boss to focus on communication in M bovis fight

The new boss of the Ministry for Primary Industries is vowing to work on improved communication with farmers over the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

Ray Smith took up his new role as director-general of MPI this month and attended a meeting on Wednesday with Mid-Canterbury and Otago farmers who are worried about M bovis. 

Currently there are 33 affected properties. Two dry-stock farms, one in the Manawatu and one in the Wairarapa, are the latest confirmed as infected properties.

Mr Smith said it was valuable to hear how the situation was affecting farmers.

"There is a really big human cost to getting this job done, and it was hard listening to the stories of farmers and what it means to lose those animals they have raised for so long," he said.

Many farmers have been critical of a lack of communication from authorities about the disease, something Mr Smith wants to address.

"The really big challenge is communication, consistency of information and making sure we follow through on the things we say we are going to do," he said.

He said there is room for improvement in trying to eradicate the disease.

New MPI boss to focus on communication in M bovis fight
Photo credit: Biosecurity NZ

"We all have to lift our game, but I've got my sleeves rolled up and so have my team who are desperate to get it right for these farmers," he said.

He said a collective approach with Dairy NZ, NZ Beef and Lamb and Federated Farmers will help improve communication.

"It's not always straight forward, but we do want to get this right," said Mr Smith.

"We are winning, but there is a distance to go," he said.