Kiwi President of Animal Health Organisation
New Zealander elected president of World Animal Health organisation
Biosecurity New Zealand head Dr Barry O’Neil has been elected president of the world organisation for animal health, the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), at a meeting in Paris on Friday (26 May).
Dr O’Neil, a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Assistant Director General, heads MAF’s biosecurity group, Biosecurity New Zealand. He has been participating in OIE activities since 1991 and has served as New Zealand’s delegate since 1994. He was previously Vice President of the OIE’s administration commission – its board of directors – for the last three years.
MAF’s Director General Murray Sherwin welcomed Dr O’Neil’s election saying it was a significant achievement, both for Dr O’Neil and for New Zealand.
“The OIE is a key organisation for New Zealand. Our economy is extremely dependent on the trade of animal products and the OIE is responsible for the standards that allow animal products to be traded safely, including country ‘disease-free’ status. In matters of trade involving animal products, it is the standards of the OIE that the World Trade Organisation is guided by,” Mr Sherwin said.
The OIE (also known as the World Organisation for Animal Health) is an intergovernmental agency founded in 1924 with 28 member countries. New Zealand joined shortly after and took part in the first general session in 1927. New Zealand has since become a major contributor to the standard setting activities of OIE, which currently has 167 member nations.
“The presidency is not a full-time role, but it’s a key position and will do much to enhance New Zealand’s reputation internationally. It offers the opportunity to influence the future strategy of the OIE, and obviously personal challenges for Dr O’Neil as well,” Mr Sherwin said.
Raised on dairy, sheep and beef farms in Manawatu and the Bay of Plenty, Dr O’Neil graduated from Massey University with a Batchelor of Veterinary Science with distinction in 1978. He practiced in large and small animal practices in New Zealand, Asia and Europe, and from 1983 as a MAF veterinarian. In 1991 he accepted a diplomatic posting based in Brussels responsible for New Zealand’s veterinary issues in Europe and the Middle East, where he first became involved with the OIE.
Dr O’Neil became MAF’s chief veterinary officer in 1994 and was appointed to head the MAF Biosecurity Authority when it was formed in 1999. The Biosecurity Authority was the forerunner of Biosecurity New Zealand, established in 2004, which Dr O’Neil now heads.
Dr O’Neil is due back in New Zealand on 2 June.