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Foot And Mouth Disease Simulation Exercise

Foot And Mouth Disease Simulation Exercise

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry will lead a major exercise in April simulating an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the exercise, known as Exercise Taurus, would be in two parts: the first testing systems on the ground, and the second testing systems within Government.

The first from the 14th to the 18th of March will test the capability of our Exotic Disease Response Centre (EDRC). This exercise, which will take place in the Manawatu region, will focus on activities in the field at a regional level and the role of the field operations response team (FORT).

"The general objective is to test the resources and systems needed in an outbreak.

"The EDRC will work through the FMD plan and evaluate the communication processes between all parties involved in the exotic disease response structure, particularly that between the industry liaison group and other groups. "

The EDRC exercise will also provide the basic epidemic scenario for April's National Response Centre exercise.

A meeting of the industry Chief Executive Officers' Liaison Group, chaired by MAF director-general Murray Sherwin, will be convened after the field exercise but before the National Response Centre exercise on 5 April, to allow input of industry advice into government at senior level.

The second phase of the simulation will be aimed at testing the National Response Centre (NRC) on the 12th and 13th April.This exercise will look at the functions of the NRC and its interface with the Domestic and External Security Coordination system which would be activated during an outbreak of FMD.

The objective of this part of the exercise is to ensure everyone involved understands FMD technical response policies and their implications. It will also give Biosecurity New Zealand the opportunity to test the Whole of Government Response Procedures, in particular those stopping livestock movements nationally as well as vaccination and infected carcasses disposal.

It will also provide the opportunity to clarify the roles and responsibilities of other government agencies involved in an FMD response.

The NRC whole-of-government response will be co-ordinated from the Beehive basement.

Coincidentally, Biosecurity New Zealand will conduct a field trial to evaluate the effectiveness of air curtain incineration for disposal of animal carcasses in the week beginning the 15th April.

Air curtain incineration is considered to be an effective method of carcass disposal with minimal environmental impacts. However, one of this trial's objectives will be to measure the emission levels from the incinerator for compliance to Environment Ministry air quality standards. This trial will take place in the Waikato.

Mr Sutton said it was important that the system for dealing with any potential outbreak be tested because of the impact any outbreak would have.

"We hope that foot and mouth disease will never make it to New Zealand, and certainly the Labour-Progressive Government have put more than 60 per cent extra into baseline biosecurity funding to ensure that it is that much harder to the disease to get here.

"But it is a common disease in many of the countries we trade with and where our tourists come from, so there is a risk."

Mr Sutton said the Reserve Bank had estimated the impact of a foot and mouth disease outbreak here as costing about $6 billion in gdp in the first year and about $10 billion in gdp in the second year.

"So, it's a hugely important area, and it's crucial that everyone ? individuals and groups ? work together to ensure the response is as integrated and comprehensive as possible."

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