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Rushed legislation on animal tracking system faces scrutiny

Gia Garrick, Political Reporter

Legislation has been rushed through to its final reading at Parliament today to beef up the country's animal tracking system, NAIT.

Jersey cows -
Mailolstar / Wikimedia Commons

Image: Mailolstar / Wikimedia Commons

The spread of the mycoplasma bovis cattle disease exposed serious shortcomings in the system, and the government said it urgently needed to be changed.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the previous government sat for a year on a review of the NAIT system, and he was now implementing the recommendations in that review and changing the law to enable better enforcement.

But National has taken issue with some aspects of the legislation, saying it should not have been rushed through.

Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy was not happy with the part of the bill that gave NAIT officers the power to go onto properties and seize goods without a warrant.

"Fundamentally, we want to get on and make sure that the NAIT system is working appropriately," he told Parliament.

"But these warrantless powers, with an over-zealous NAIT officer being able to turn up on properties unannounced without caused and seize property, we think, has gone too far."

National MP Amy Adams said no law change of this scale should be forced through Parliament without scrutiny.

"It is utterly outrageous, this is an extension of warrantless search powers. No select committee, no legal advice, and the minister has attempted to tell this House that it is technical," she said during the debate.

However, Mr O'Connor said those were scare tactics.

"We are not adding power, we are aligning the powers under the NAIT Act - which are currently inadequate - to that of the Search and Surveillance Act," he said.

"And I guess the question could be why wasn't that done earlier to enable NAIT officers to better implement the Act, well I can't answer for the previous government."

Under urgency, the legislation can be passed through all its stages without having to go to select committee.

It passed first and second reading on Wednesday night, with the House committee stage and third reading debated through from 9am.

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