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Carter: National Animal Identification and Tracing Bill

David Carter

14 December, 2010

National Animal Identification and Tracing Bill 2010 – First Reading

Mr Speaker, I move that the National Animal Identification and Tracing Bill be now read a first time.

At the appropriate time, I intend to move that the Bill be considered by the Primary Production Select Committee.
Mr Speaker, New Zealand has a highly effective biosecurity system to manage the risks posed by harmful organisms, including the risks to our very important livestock industries.

Actively managing these biosecurity risks maintains or enhances New Zealand’s already high reputation for quality animal products and our access to premium markets. Other countries are increasingly moving to mandatory individual tracing systems for their livestock. We cannot afford to lag behind our competitors.

It is vital during an animal disease outbreak to quickly find out the extent of the problem and start to manage it. This requires good knowledge of where infected animals are and the other animals they have been in contact with.

The National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme, or NAIT, will meet this need by collecting information on animals, their location, and movement history throughout their lifetime. This means we can more quickly and effectively target our resources to contain and manage a biosecurity or product contamination event, and provide evidence to reassure our trading partners.

The NAIT scheme will also improve consumer confidence, by providing more background information about the source of food products, to support general trade and high-value niche markets. And it will support management of adverse events, such as drought.

NAIT will benefit both the country as a whole, and the industries and individual farmers involved.

The NAIT scheme is a partnership between industry and the Crown, which started in 2004 in recognition of the growing need for better animal identification and tracing systems. These livestock and animal products industries continue to be key partners in developing and implementing NAIT. I would like to pay tribute to their involvement and constructive approach.

I also know that there are members on the opposite side of the House who approved the development of NAIT in its earlier stages. I would like to thank them too, for their contribution.

NAIT will begin with cattle and deer, which already have some identification and paper-based tracing schemes in place. NAIT will, however, introduce radio frequency identification tags and a computerised database to accurately record the details of individual animals and their movement histories.

Mr Speaker, the NAIT Bill sets out the basic requirements needed to make NAIT work. This includes the governance arrangements, and the powers and functions of the organisation that will run the NAIT scheme. NAIT will need to be flexible, to allow for changing information needs. The Bill will enable regulations to prescribe the detailed requirements for the animal sector or sectors covered by NAIT.

Mr Speaker, people who are in charge of animals covered by this Bill, such as farmers, saleyard operators and meat processors, will be responsible for recording and updating information on the NAIT database.

But the value of NAIT goes beyond the information that this Bill will require. The NAIT infrastructure provides industry with a much more efficient way of holding its own animal-related data, such as genetic history and production data, if it chooses. Improving on-farm management will help New Zealand farmers expand their comparative advantage.
Mr Speaker, this Government is conscious of the need to protect the personal and commercially sensitive information from misuse. While people will be able to access their own data, government agencies responsible for biosecurity and food safety may only access personal data for the purposes for which it was collected under the Bill.

The data needs to be protected, but at the same time it represents a valuable source for research and statistics. Permission may be granted to access non-personal information, if it is in the interests of the industry and the public good.

Many dairy farmers currently use commercial organisations to complete their herd recording and herd testing requirements. This approach will continue under the NAIT scheme.

After NAIT becomes law, the emphasis will be on educating people on the new requirements. But we are dealing with important measures to improve biosecurity and maintain our international markets. We must have sanctions against people who deliberately evade their responsibilities, or put the integrity of NAIT in doubt.

The Bill includes some offences and penalties. The highest penalties are appropriate for knowingly accessing or disclosing information about an individual, or commercially sensitive information.

Industry and the Crown will share the running costs of NAIT, with the Bill setting out the principles for industry cost recovery.

Other regulations may be made to help implement the Bill. This includes the mechanism to add or remove species from mandatory NAIT coverage following a proper process. The type of animal identification, and whether it is for individual animals or for groups of animals, such as herds, will be assessed for each species in consultation with that industry.

In conclusion, this Bill establishes a scheme that will provide accurate and timely identification and tracing of livestock at least cost. This will protect New Zealand farmers in the marketplace, bring us into line with most other agricultural producing nations and strengthen our already excellent biosecurity system.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.


ENDS

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