West Auckland farm accused of hiding 180,000 chicken deaths from MPI

A west Auckland poultry farm is being accused of hiding the death of around 180,000 chickens from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The birds were found suffocated to death on Saturday morning after a power cut caused equipment which pumped air into the sheds to fail.

However it took three days for MPI to find out - and it's not happy.

"It's a tragic incident and we're quite disappointed that we weren't notified. We only found out about it today," MPI's director of compliance, Gary Orr, told Newshub.

SAFE says it's unsurprising behaviour from an industry which requires a complete overhaul.

"This is just negligence, it's a catalogue of failures. There's a power cut, their generator failed and even the alarms to alert the workers to the power cut, they failed as well," says SAFE campaign manager Marianne Macdonald.

"They were, it seems, trying to avoid the attention of MPI and that sort of shows the underhand practices of the industry."

The Helensville farm supplies Tegal which confirmed in a statement a failure in backup systems resulted in the loss of birds. It went on to say it's now working with all contracted growers to ensure contingency systems are in place and working correctly.

"This is unique, it's unprecedented, and I'm quite confident that the industry itself will be checking very carefully to make sure there's no repeat," Orr says.

But it's just shy of a year since Tegal was last fielding questions about dangerous farming practices after 50,000 chickens were killed in a factory fire - also in west Auckland.

"This is going to keep happening if Tegal is allowed to get away with this," Macdonald says.

MPI is vowing to undertake a thorough investigation of this latest incident - and hoping it's not too late to get answers.

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