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Threat Boosts Access Concerns

17 May 2005
PR 071/05

Threat Boosts Access Concerns

The Waiheke Island foot-and-mouth scare highlights the huge importance of minimising the potential for pests and diseases to enter farm land, said Keith Kelly, the President of Auckland Federated Farmers.

"Today we have heard that police are convinced the claimed release of foot and mouth was a hoax. That is obviously a relief to Waiheke farmers and indeed all farmers throughout New Zealand, especially in the Auckland province."

"This cruel hoax has cost millions of dollars and put great stress on farmers, but that aside it also demonstrated the economic value of agriculture to New Zealand, and underscored the importance of minimising risks to the productive sector," Mr Kelly said.

Agriculture, including first-stage processing, contributes about 17 percent of gross domestic product. About 85 percent of agricultural production is exported and those exports amount to approximately 55 percent of New Zealand's total exports.

"One of the ways to minimise the biosecurity risk to agriculture is farmers retaining the right to manage who enters their land," Mr Kelly said.

"Foot and mouth is the most serious biosecurity threat to New Zealand. However, there are many others which are also serious. The risk of these diseases and pests being spread is heightened by uncontrolled access to farming businesses.

"The government is proposing to allow anybody, no matter their character or intent, to be allowed access to private land along significant waterways. Farmers are absolutely opposed to the government removing farmers' right to control who comes onto their farms.

"If farmers suspect that their animals and livelihoods will be put at further risk by the public accessing their farm, the landowner must retain the right to say no. These refusals would be in the minority when compared to the number of people granted permission to access farms.

"For security and other reasons, no other business allows the public to walk through factories and offices. Why should farmers demand any less.

"Currently, people approach a farmer for permission to enter land. So if something happens, the farmer knows they are there or have been there, and these people can be tracked down if necessary," Mr Kelly said.

Examples of biosecurity breaches include:

The spread of animal disease. For example, a whole herd of cattle was condemned due to beef measles, caught as a direct result of grazing pasture contaminated by human faeces.
The spread of plant diseases. For example, pitch canker forest disease spread by weed seeds in trampers’ boots.
Visitors feeding farm animals. For example, meat sandwiches being fed to cattle, despite the ban on feeding ruminant protein to ruminants.
Public misunderstanding of farms. For example, the quote “I love farms. They are one big toilet” from the film On Golden Pond).
Gates left open, allowing stock to escape and spread diseases such as Tb.
Public tampering with beehives and removing honey during biosecurity restrictions.


ENDS

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