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Operation Waiheke officially stood down.

Operation Waiheke officially stood down.

Operation Waiheke, MAF’s response to the claimed release of Foot and Mouth disease on Waiheke Island officially ended on Monday.

MAF Acting Director of Biosecurity Douglas Birnie said MAF was already facing a bill of around $1.5 million to $2 million from the episode and this excluded lost staff time, any of the costs incurred by the other organisations involved, and compensation costs to farmers.

“Compensation payments to farmers have yet to be received and considered. We hope to process them as quickly as possible, but it will take a little time,” said Mr Birnie.

Monday marked 14 days since the receipt of a letter by the Prime Minister’s office claiming that Foot and Mouth Disease had been released on the island, sparking a Government-wide response involving MAF, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the New Zealand Police. The 14-day response was dictated by the maximum incubation period of foot and mouth before clinical symptoms become apparent, and by trading regulations.

The response was scaled back last Monday after the receipt of a second letter by the Dominion Post newspaper confirming the claimed release was a hoax. Police are satisfied that both letters were written by the same person.

Movement controls were lifted after the receipt of the second letter, but about 10 staff were left on the island to address any concerns farmers or residents may have had. They were officially stood down on Monday. At its height, Operation Waiheke directly involved more than 100 MAF/Food Safety staff – 60 at MAF and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority in Wellington, 20 at the Exotic Disease Response Centre, and 31 on the Field Operations Response Team in Auckland and on Waiheke Island plus staff from MFAT, the Police and other organisations.

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