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Biosecurity Foot & Mouth Tthreat Investigation

Biosecurity threat investigation

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Director of Biosecurity Barry O’Neil said today that MAF and Police were responding to a claimed deliberate release of foot and mouth virus on Waiheke Island.

Mr O’Neil and Mr Marshall said the claim, advised by letter to the Prime Minister’s Office this morning, was probably a hoax but was being taken very seriously.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has activated its disease management response systems this afternoon after the letter was received.

As part of this precautionary response a controlled area notice has been issued which restricts the movement of livestock and risk material on and from the island while the investigation proceeds. There are no restrictions on people travelling to or from Waiheke Island.

A controlled area notice has been issued under the provisions of the Biosecurity Act in order to restrict the movement of risk material. Risk materials include live animals, hay, equipment used with animals, untreated products from animals, milk, cheese, meat and wool.

Mr O’Neil said the notice took effect this afternoon. He stressed the importance of securing the full co-operation of everyone in the area in dealing with the situation.

He emphasised that there was no risk to public safety or public health. Foot and mouth disease only affects ruminant animals, such as sheep, cattle and pigs.

Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Marshall said anyone with any information that might assist enquiries was encouraged to contact their nearest police station immediately.

Senior ministers and officials have been briefed and a police inquiry into the origin of the letter has been launched.

“While this matter is probably a hoax we must take all necessary steps to safeguard New Zealand’s interests and public welfare,” Mr. O’Neil said.

“As a precautionary measure, we are also taking steps to advise key industry participants in New Zealand and overseas of this claimed foot and mouth virus release.”

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