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MAF announces foot and mouth publicity campaign

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) will undertake two campaigns to educate New Zealanders about the dangers of foot and mouth disease, and what each individual can do to help protect New Zealand, acting Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

One campaign will target farmers, and will aim to make ever farmer in New Zealand aware of what the first symptoms of foot and mouth look like, and what to do if the symptoms are recognised.

The other will focus on New Zealand's urban majority, making them aware that foot and mouth is not just a problem for the farm, but something which would damage the whole New Zealand economy.

"There are some very simple things that ordinary people can do to protect our country and we will be spelling these out," Mr Sutton said.

MAF is seeking the co-operation of news media to educate the New Zealand public about a risk of foot and mouth to New Zealand that it describes as 'an issue of national economic security'.

The Government wants to make it clear that foot and mouth must be taken very very seriously. In this context, it is important for all New Zealanders to realise that the main threat is from Asia. This Asian threat is not temporary. It is long term and ongoing. People are responding to the current television images show images of what is happening in the UK. But the fact is that there is an even greater threat from foot and mouth in Asia.

"There were, last year, 490 outbreaks of foot and mouth in South-East Asia alone. In many Asian countries the disease is there all the time. It is opportune to make the point to farmers and others is that the foot and mouth risk to New Zealand is not new. It is serious. And, most importantly, it will not go away when the current European outbreak goes away. It will diminish slightly. And that is all.

"If the disease did become established in New Zealand, our living standard would drop at least 25 per cent.

"It would be quite wrong for New Zealanders to think that when the UK outbreak is over the risk is gone. It will not be. No one should relax just because the images disappear from television and newspapers."

Mr Sutton said that no system of border protection does or can offer 100 per cent protection, because people smuggle things.

"But I will be taking to Cabinet on Monday a package of enhancements to make sure we get as close to 100 per cent as possible, consistent with laws that are sustainable in a democratic society.

"There has never been an incursion of foot and mouth into New Zealand. This does not imply that we can relax, but it does imply that if all New Zealanders are informed and vigilant there is a realistic chance we can continue to keep it out.

"That is what our media campaigns will be all about. Involving all New Zealanders in protecting our country from a serious threat that is ongoing, a threat that will not go away in the foreseeable future. And certainly not when the UK crisis is over.

"We wish to create a " New Zealand team" response. So that all New Zealanders know what they can do to help when returning from overseas or importing goods. So that all rural people know how to recognise foot and mouth, and what to do if they see it.

"If we can get millions of pairs of eyes on the job we can maximise the level of New Zealand safety from foot and mouth."

The two media-based campaigns would be followed by 'a 2.7 million dollar 'biosecurity awareness campaign' which would teach New Zealanders what all can do to help protect our country from not only foot and mouth but other unwanted foreign invaders, Mr Sutton said.

ENDS

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