More New Zealanders are taking up the chance to work in horticulture amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
“There have been some ridiculous claims, and there have been some mistakes made. I don’t think it’s easy to point fingers at any particular part of the process to say who’s at fault here.”
Asked to comment on complaints by some M. bovis affected farmers that they are out of pocket because of expenses ruled unclaimable under the Biosecurity Act, O’Connor emphasised that the eradication programme was jointly run by MPI with DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, so farmers themselves were contributing to the cost.
“We are always working to try to improve the compensation process but it’s governed by legislation and by determination by BLNZ and DairyNZ and MPI to pay fair compensation but not to pay it when it’s not justified,” he said.
However, the Government is committed to a review of the Biosecurity Act.
Some ex gratia (outside the strict criteria) payments had also been granted.
“Those decisions are made keeping in mind the fact that farmers themselves are contributing to this. They want a fair outcome and we have endeavoured to be fair at every stage, but there are technical and legal obligations that have to be adhered to.”
Meanwhile, O’Connor said the TAG (Technical Advisory Group) report on the eradication programme would soon be finalised and released.
“Indications are we’re still on track, that the challenges that we have encountered with testing, with the technology, with prioritisation, we’ve worked through those.
“The programme has not been perfect but we’re still on track for eradication and we think that’s well worth the effort.”