Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lessons learnt from M bovis review

An independent review of the Mycoplasma bovis programme has identified key lessons for future management of large-scale and complex animal disease incursions.

Nicola Shadbolt chaired the Mycoplasma bovis programme review and says the panel considered the evolution of the programme from its start in 2017 to today.

An independent review of the Mycoplasma bovis programme has identified key lessons for future management of large-scale and complex animal disease incursions.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) commissioned the review in February this year, appointing Nicola Shadbolt (chair), Roger Paskin, Caroline Saunders and Tony Cleland to carry it out.

Key recommendations released in the review report include building a national contingency plan for future animal disease responses, supported by detailed operational procedures and materials.

This includes developing standing governance of livestock disease preparedness made up of MPI and industry organisations, and developing and resourcing the livestock disease preparedness structure, capacity and capability within MPI.

Developing and resourcing a data strategy across the livestock biosecurity system is recommended to improve New Zealand’s wider biosecurity system.

The review found the M bovis programme, a partnership between MPI, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, is on track to achieve a world-first eradication.

“We have come a long way since the programme started,” M bovis governance group independent chair Kelvan Smith said.

“We’ve previously acknowledged the issues at the start of the programme and the independent review acknowledges that lessons have been learned and improvements made as the programme progressed.

He says the review will help to ensure better systems and support in the future for disease responses.

MPI director-general Ray Smith says the M bovis programme has provided valuable lessons for future disease responses and these are being applied to areas of work like the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Readiness Programme.

“The M bovis programme has already led to changes across the biosecurity system, however, there’s always room to improve,” Smith said.

“One of the key recommendations is that we all need to work more closely together to ensure the right capability and support is in place for people affected by a disease incursion.”

Improvements already made or under way include the appointment of a new specialist welfare advisor within Biosecurity NZ to ensure a greater focus on the needs of people affected by future incursion responses and a new chief veterinary officer for MPI to connect the Ministry’s vets and build collaboration with the country’s private veterinary network to enhance disease readiness. 

Investment is being made in a new data strategy to ensure the information needs of biosecurity responses can be met in future with an extensive programme of projects for increasing readiness for an FMD incursion under way, with much of this work scalable to incursions of less severe impact.

Work is under way with industry partners and networks outside of MPI to ensure the expertise for preparing for and responding to large-scale animal incursions are identified, developed and maintained.

The strengthening of importing requirements for cattle semen and the completion of the new national biocontainment laboratory at Wallaceville, will enable improved disease diagnostic capability and capacity.

Review chair Nicola Shadbolt says the panel considered the evolution of the M bovis programme from its start in 2017 to today.

“Our review was informed by the experiences of both farmers and those who worked in the programme,” Shadbolt said.

“Unique tools and capability have been built, which put us in a great position and we’re on track to be the first country in the world to eradicate M bovis.

“We now need to make sure we capture these lessons learned, improve our preparedness for the next animal health response, have a world-class biosecurity system that all players commit to, and that will deliver.”

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel and Beef + Lamb NZ chair Andrew Morrison say the review highlighted what could help biosecurity responses in the future.

“The review will help ensure that government and industry are better prepared for any future incursion,” Van der Poel said.

“It’s vital we get it right for farmers.

“Implementing the recommendations of this independent review will go a long way to strengthening our biosecurity system, which will prove vital in the face of any future incursions,” Morrison added.

Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the review panel has made some sensible recommendations for both MPI and the primary sector to boost biosecurity and future animal disease responses.

“By working together and taking the lessons and improvements from the M bovis programme with us, we are better placed to meet future biosecurity challenges,” O’Connor said.

There are currently four active confirmed properties, all in Canterbury, with 18 farms under Notices of Direction (NoD).

A total $212 million in compensation has been paid across 2676 claims.

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