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Minister Confident Of Robust MAF Systems

Minister Confident Of Robust MAF Systems

Opposition criticisms of the open and transparent way the Government has handled the threat of a foot and mouth disease release are completely spurious, Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton was critical of comments by National leader Don Brash that the Government should have concealed its efforts to deal with a threat of the release of foot and mouth disease on Waiheke Island.

"To do anything to investigate the truth about this claim requires putting livestock movement controls on farms. To do this without explanation would only cause rumour and speculation that would damage New Zealand's reputation internationally and harm our efforts to control this potential outbreak within New Zealand."

Mr Sutton said the correctness of this open and transparent approach could be easily seen.

"All but one of our trading partners are happy to accept our assurances over this issue, and that one is to assess our exports on a case-by-case basis.

"On Waiheke Island, the community is working well with MAF and other officials, banding together to deal with the potential threat."

To try to handle such incidents in anything other than a honest, open way was a recipe for disaster, he said.

"New Zealand's international reputation is based on our honesty and integrity. Apparently, National are willing to put all that at risk. I would not have believed that any senior politician could have said what Dr Brash has said, had I not read the transcript with my own eyes."

Mr Sutton said he was confident that MAF's systems for dealing with foot and mouth were robust and effective.

"This scenario has been practiced often, with the latest simulated outbreak exercise being held only two months ago. I am confident that the exotic disease outbreak response is a well-oiled machine."

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