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Anderton: NAIT launch

12 June 2008 Speech

NAIT launch
Mystery Creek, Hamilton

It seems forever ago now that we in New Zealand read of cases that shocked us overseas - like Mad Cow disease, or BSE, that rocked the meat industry in the eighties and darkened in the nineties as consequences for human health dawned everywhere.

There were long trails of concern about food safety before those days, of course. But that was a time when food production changed forever in the minds of consumers.

It was a time when food producers everywhere understood they would also have to provide high standards of certainty about our food. Guarantees about the source of food. Guarantees about what had happened to it along the way.
And it happened at a time when a dawn was breaking in the complexity and sophistication of global trade.

As consumers searched for more about where their food came from, their questions grew intrinsically harder to answer.

Questions about food safety rippled through all primary industries. They rippled throughout the world.

You couldn’t miss the questions for us: How could we show our standards were different?

One crucial way of giving an assurance is to acknowledge that sometimes things will go wrong.

Then we have the opportunity to trace everything back to its source if we have whole-of-life traceability for livestock.

These are not optional questions for New Zealand.

They are questions being demanded of us by our customers. They are being asked by regulators in the countries we export to.

And as global demand for quality animal production increases, we have a competitive advantage. We have an edge because we have standards to rival any in the world.

I’m pleased we are working to harness that advantage. We’re here today to celebrate the partnership between government and industry that will help us sustain our advantage. And I want to celebrate the industry’s recognition of the issues and commitment to a way forward.

One main reason for getting our act together on animal identification and traceability is simply sensible risk management.

Farming is an intrinsically risky business. There are climate risks, price and market risks and risks from pests and diseases - all far beyond the normal risks faced by other businesses. So the productive industries get used to managing risks.

If we were to confront a major animal disease, our ability to cope and to respond would depend on identification and tracing.

That is the best way to recover and reassure our markets. It’s the best way to deploy resources to manage the outbreak.

Ever since the original systems were put in place for bovine TB back in the nineties, central government has been working with industry on a national approach.

In 2004 we started a partnership between the industry and government to work together on solutions. We needed a way forward that worked for the industry as well as for the wider public. We needed a way forward that met our biosecurity and trade demands.

In this year’s budget, I was pleased that the government’s commitment turned to action.

In the budget this year the government allocated funding to build an animal identification and traceability system capable of standing up to scrutiny anywhere in the world.

Capital funding has been set aside for the National Animal Identification and Tracing system. Nearly $2.9 million in the first year, over four million in the second, and further funding after that.

On top of that, the government will fund 35 percent of the operating costs of the system each year.

Ultimately, every livestock animal in New Zealand will be tagged.

They will enter a database. They will be traced from the paddock to slaughter.
We’re also building an associated, “master registry” of rural properties under the FarmsOnLine project.

Another three million dollars this year will be spent on this in capital funding, together with two and half million dollars a year operating costs.

This will be a Crown-owned data service. It will source information from government and industry.

It will be a source of useful information - like farm location (including maps), as well as ownership, management, and land use.

The registry will tie in to the national animal identification and tracing system. It will support registration of properties that run livestock. And it will provide detailed mapping information to support animal disease responses.

The FarmsOnLine system will be up and running by July next year.

There is still more to do. Identification and tracking is a tough issue, and there’s been a lot of discussion.

There has been a lot of work by industry with government officials and it’s time to open things up for public input.

A document is being launched at the Fieldays outlining the national identification and tracking proposal. It looks at how it will work in practice.

I want to strongly encourage feedback about the system.

We need to know if we will hold the right data to do the job. We need to make sure we are right about the needs of people who work with national animal identification and tracking. We’ll fine tune it.

We need to know if the way we record animal movements is practical - and keeps the information accurate and up-to-date.

Of course, there is also room to contribute your views about the best way to fund the system and the best transition from current systems into the new one.

Public feedback on all of that - and more - is vital.

Good ideas can only be tested when they are measured by the people they affect. Even if we have this right, we can only know that through a transparent consultation process. And of course, there is always room for improvement.

If you think back to the shock consumers felt when they discovered the difficult issues overseas that I mentioned earlier, you can see the need to manage industry risks.

The power of having tools available is the potential for those tools to reassure consumers.

Only a system with integrity will genuinely reassure consumers - and integrity, in turn, requires a broad base of consensus and motivation by producers.
So I again congratulate the industry on its partnership with the government over this issue.

And I look forward to the future success of the national animal identification and tracking system. Good wishes for the days ahead.


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