The dairy industry's annual Moving Day will go ahead as planned this year but with strict controls to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has announced.
On June 1 each year, the first day of the dairy season, a large number of dairy farming families, sharemilkers, contract milkers and employees move to new farms to commence new employment and milking contracts.
The movement of people, their possessions, livestock and machinery is known as 'Moving Day'.
However there has been uncertainty and concern from farmers over whether it could go ahead due to the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions.
O'Connor said it was important the day went ahead.
"This annual movement is a critical part of the dairy industry - an industry that contributes over $18 billion dollars a year in exports to our economy and provides jobs for around 46,000 people in our rural communities," said O'Connor.
"It's also an industry that will play a critical role in New Zealand's economic recovery after COVID-19, so it was vital that Moving Day went ahead."
He said since the Alert Level 4 lockdown was announced, and dairy farming was deemed an essential service, the Government had been committed to finding a way to enable it to proceed.
"The Government has been working with sector leaders from organisations including DairyNZ, Fonterra, Federated Farmers and FMG to find solutions which work for those in the sector and protect the economy without jeopardising anyone's health and safety.
"MPI then worked with the Ministry of Health and MBIE and found solutions that allow Moving Day to proceed under any alert level."
Activities would need to be restricted to just those that are absolutely necessary and any movement around New Zealand must ensure people's "bubbles" are maintained, he said. Industry group DairyNZ said the announcement would be a great relief to farmers.
"Moving Day is a key time in the dairy calendar so it's great that a solution has been secured with the Government which will provide peace of mind for thousands of farmers. It means we'll move into the next dairy season in a way that keeps them and the public as safe as possible," said DairyNZ chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle.
"Industry groups would be providing further guidance and information to support those dairy farmers who are shifting this season, including ensuring their moves are safe and within their bubbles," said Dr Mackle.
O'Connor said New Zealand farmers were no strangers to disease eradication programmes with strict movement controls.
"There were already really strong precautions in place around Moving Day as a result of the Mycoplasma bovis Programme. This gives me confidence that farmers will apply very careful behaviour to Moving Day.
"I want to thank all of those sector groups and farmers across the country who have worked together and shared some really solid and innovative thinking about potential solutions which will allow these crucial farm movements to go ahead safely and efficiently."
Key information for farmers:
- Moving Day will go ahead as scheduled, under any alert level.
- Moving Day activities will be restricted to those absolutely necessary to enable the movement of people, and, where relevant, livestock, chattels and farm equipment. This is to make sure dairy farmers and workers have safe and suitable housing and protect the welfare of their animals.
- If we are under Alert Level 4, the dairy sector should limit activities to only those that cannot be deferred.
- Any movement around New Zealand must ensure people's "bubbles" are maintained.
- Maintain up-to-date and accurate NAIT and other animal movement records.
- Face-to-face contact should be limited and the potential spread of COVID-19 should be reduced using measures such as physical distancing and additional hygiene protocols.
- The MPI primary sector risk assessment framework will be extended to primary sector businesses that are deemed non-essential services under current Alert level 4 protocols so they can commence operating immediately (and safely) at alert level 3.