Thursday, August 11, 2022

‘Doomsday disease’ can’t be allowed to reach NZ shores

Neal Wallace
Cargo containers examined as NZ ramps up anti-FMD measures.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says FMD’s arrival in NZ would threaten 100,000 jobs and cost the economy $10 billion a year.

Every shipping container arriving in New Zealand from Indonesia will be inspected by customs officials as the Government ramps up measures to keep out foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

FMD is rampant throughout Indonesia, and in NZ yesterday Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor termed it a doomsday disease, telling a press conference its arrival in NZ would threaten 100,000 jobs and cost the economy $10 billion a year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said preventing FMD reaching our shores is the first step, but an extra $21m was set aside in the previous budget to undertake critical diagnosis and  surveillance, and to investigate exotic diseases that threaten the economy.

The Government has banned travellers from Indonesia from importing all meat, even in forms previously allowed, introduced foot baths at international airports and last month audited the palm kernel supply chain.

Ardern said it meets NZ biosecurity standards.

Other steps include having customs present to inspect the contents and the exterior of all containers arriving from Indonesia to look for products or ways FMD could be transmitted.

Food products imported from Indonesia are being tested on supermarket shelves, which is also happening in Australia. There, the disease was detected as DNA fragments, a state in which the disease is dead but shows the animal had been exposed to FMD.

O’Connor said a risk awareness campaign has been launched among travellers, whose luggage is being screened for risk.

There are no direct flights between Indonesia and NZ, but it has been reported that 1000 Australians a day are travelling there, providing a route for possible transmission.

O’Connor said farmer compliance with NAIT tracking is high and will be vital for detecting stock movement should an outbreak occur.

He fears eradication will be difficult should the disease enter the wild animal, pig and deer population.

He said NZ has access to FMD vaccine in storage in the United Kingdom.

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