Next step in M.bovis response likely to come in the next week, PM Ardern says
By Paul McBeth
May 21 (BusinessDesk) - The government's next step in the response to the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis is expected to come in the next week, although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is still hopeful the cattle disease can be eradicated.
The prime minister today met with a group of farmers from Te Awamutu to discuss the impact of the disease on farmers and told her weekly post-Cabinet press conference the government is working closely with industry to formulate a response. The government has initially sought to contain and eradicate the disease since it was first discovered last July, but it's spread across the country has made that more problematic and it's now deciding on whether to continue with that goal or set up a long-term management plan.
The Ministry for Primary Industries is working with technical advisory groups and industry "with a view to deciding in the next week what the next steps will be," Ardern said. "We are working to get the most and the best advice from around the world that we can, working with industry to make those long-term decisions on how to best deal with M.bovis."
While $85 million has been allocated for the response, the spread since the initial cull means that cost "could well grow", but will "ultimately depend on the nature of the long-term plan to deal with bovis," she said. MPI has previously estimated its claims liability would be about $60 million.
"My hope absolutely remains we can eradicate, but we have to make sure we base that decision on the evidence in front of us," she said.
At last week's budget, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he had no doubt "we will need to spend significant amounts of money to respond to Mycoplasma bovis", and Treasury noted the biosecurity response to the cattle disease as a policy risk in the budget documents, saying the cost will depend on what response the Ministry for Primary Industries pursues.
The budget documents showed the response was bolstered by an $11.2 million contribution from the local cattle industry, and Ardern today said the government was still in talks over cost-sharing arrangements.
Ardern stressed the disease carries no risk to consumers, and that one of the difficulties of quantifying the cost was how Mycoplasma bovis would affect productivity.