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M bovis: Farmers not on scheme face hefty penalties

Gia Garrick, Political Reporter

The government is going to get tough on farmers who don't register their animals as the Mycoplasma bovis disease spreads.

Farmers face hefty penalties for non-compliance if they are found to be off the National Animal Identification and Tracking scheme, which is being enforced to help stop the spread of Mycoplasma bovis disease. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The government is going to enforce the National Animal Identification and Tracking scheme - and some farmers will face hefty penalties for non-compliance.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said New Zealand would not be in this situation had the previous government enforced NAIT guidelines and put in place 40 recommendations from a dairy industry review.

"The review sat around for a year - I don't know why - anyway, we've not got those recommendations out and we will be taking action on them to make sure we don't have this agonising process again in the future.

"There will be some pretty substantive fines [for not registering animals] I guess, depending on the level of abuse."

Mr O'Connor said for some farmers it was a case of merely not being aware of their obligations, which he said was another failure on the part of the previous National government.

About 30 percent of Mycoplasma bovis tests were expected to come back positive, he said.

The virus was found on a farm in Cambridge, Waikato, and local National MP Tim Van De Molen said he was devastated.

"I feel for this [guy], you know, he's been great through the process, he's communicated openly, he's made no attempt to cover up the situation, he's working with MPI as best he can."

But Mr Van De Molen said the person who was not communicating was the minister.

"What do we do from here? What are the next steps? What information is out there? And that's really what they are wanting - is some clarity."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier said NAIT had "failed abysmally".

Federated Farmers President Katie Milne agreed to a point and said the system had been in place for about five years, there had been a review, and yet nobody had followed up.

"Something does need to happen, something does need to change," she said.

"Most people get it right, most people are very diligent about this. But for the few that haven't, this now changing the system and the minister coming out saying, 'We're going to penalise people,' should be the shot across the bow for people to smarten their act up."

Industry bodies are due to meet this week to discuss the Mycoplasma bovis crisis.

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