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Foot and Mouth Disease simulation exercise

Foot and Mouth Disease simulation exercise

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry will lead the second phase of a majorexercise simulating an outbreak of foot and mouth disease this week, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the exercise, known as Exercise Taurus, has been run in two parts: the first tested systems on the ground and the second will test systems within Government.

The first phase held from the 14th to the 18th of March tested the capability of our Exotic Disease Response Centre (EDRC). It focused on activities in the field at a regional level and the role of the field operations response team (FORT).

Mr Sutton said MAF has learned some valuable information about resourcing, especially the requirements for a large number of veterinarians, some of whom will need to be sourced from an international pool.

The EDRC exercise also provided the basic epidemic scenario for this week's National Response Centre exercise.

A meeting of the industry Chief Executive Officers' Liaison Group, chaired by MAF director-general Murray Sherwin, has also been simulated and has highlighted the need for good industry relationships in a time of crisis.

The second phase of the simulation is aimed at testing the National Response Centre (NRC) today and tomorrow. 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 this week as well.

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 he was delighted with the co-operation government departments and industry had shown in testing our exotic disease response systems during Exercise Taurus.

"We need to test our systems periodically to ensure we are ready to deal with any potential outbreak and cooperation within government and externally with industry is critical to minimizing the impact of an outbreak.

"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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