Technical advice and pathway tracing reports released following compliance searches

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 8940328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today released reports by a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to its Mycoplasma bovis response and an internal report examining potential entry routes (pathways) to New Zealand for the disease.

The TAG report contains a reference to possible legal breaches in relation to how the disease entered the country.  While these have largely been redacted from the report, MPI has been unable to release it until those matters were sufficiently examined by compliance investigators.

Note: Redactions have been made to the TAG and pathways reports consistent with provisions of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). Where required, the Ministry for Primary Industries has considered the public interest when making decisions on the information being withheld.

TAG report

The TAG report (December 2017) and an update addendum (February 2018) endorse MPI's response activity to date to manage the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis. It finds that while eradication of the disease remains technically possible, it would be difficult, time-consuming, and costly.

MPI’s director of response, Geoff Gwyn, says forming a technical advisory group is a routine part of complex biosecurity responses.

"TAGs give us an independent perspective on what we've done and help us take the best possible course of action going forward.

"In this case, the group has found the significant work undertaken by MPI and industry to understand the disease and limit its spread meets internationally-recognised standards.

"The report also suggests enhancements to our work programme that could be made as the response continues. This is the purpose of the report and most of the recommendations have been actioned," Mr Gwyn says.

The TAG reports that, despite clear links between infected properties, the extent of the infection, the complexity of diagnostic tests, and deficiencies in record-keeping around animal movements will make the task of eradication difficult and expensive.

The TAG's updated advice in February found a minority of TAG members felt successful eradication was less likely than had been assessed in the earlier December report, due to the likelihood of undetected spread since (possibly) 2015, the scale of tracing required, and the failure of NAIT (the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme) to fully track animal movements.

However, Mr Gwyn says a range of options remain for consideration before a final decision can be made.

“The TAG's advice will help us as we consider whether to proceed with eradication or pursue other options for managing the disease in the longer-term.

"There is critical work being done to model the potential spread of Mycoplasma bovis under different scenarios and in understanding the costs and benefits of decisions around eradication.

"We are confident the disease is not well established in New Zealand and we now need to complete our analysis and planning.

"The decision taken earlier this week to depopulate infected farms will reduce disease pressure and put us in the best position to eradicate or move to long-term management when that decision is made.

"We are taking the appropriate time to reach the right decision. There is much to consider, including the cost benefits and the effects on farmers and their families and on animal welfare. We all want to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis – but it has to be technically possible, practically achievable, and affordable for everyone."

The TAG will be reconvened for the third time in the next few weeks to discuss next steps.

Pathway analysis report

In addition to the TAG report, MPI's analysis of potential entry pathways for the disease has also been released and examines 7 potential routes of entry – imported live cattle, other imported animals, imported frozen semen, imported embryos, imported veterinary medicines and biological products, imported feed, and imported used farm equipment.

The report does not reach any conclusion about the likelihood of any of the 7 risk commodities being responsible.

This report was completed in late November as a snapshot, based on information known at that time.  MPI continues to examine potential entry pathways.

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