A South Island farming couple whose farm was the first discovered with Mycoplasma bovis are taking legal action against the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Every person in charge of animals must re-register their NAIT location following a recent upgrade to the system.
Yet only one week out from moving day, the Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor released figures showing that about half of all dairy farms – 8000 out of 15,000 – had yet to re-register.
O’Connor said that was not good enough.
“One thing the Mycoplasma bovis response has highlighted is the low levels of compliance with NAIT,” he said.
Woodville dairy farmer Ben Allomes, a DairyNZ director, revealed he had missed the need to re-register, but he questioned OSPRI’s low-key messaging about it.
Allomes told Rural News that when he realised he had missed it, he looked back through his inbox and found the original notice at the bottom of an otherwise routine email that he hadn’t scrolled through.
“There are some pretty engaged dairy farmers who have missed this -- myself included. Don’t think we are deliberately being difficult,” he said in a Tweet.
However, Allomes said he and the minister were “on the same page” over the need to get all farmers over the line.
NAIT no longer has its own website and farmers must register via an interactive map on the OPSRI site.
Allomes has since re-registered. He says the online process was easy enough but not intuitive. In his case it was complicated by the map-based location logging his farm including an unmade town of 200 separate titles which each had to be clicked on individually.
Eketahuna farmer Micha Johansen also tweeted a response to O’Connor, saying she re-registered for NAIT after an email from OSPRI. But she then got a second email which she hoped and assumed was just a reminder for not yet compliant farmers
But Johansen told Rural News she has since looked up her details on the website and found nothing there to confirm that her re-registration was successful.
Johansen’s tweet referred to the process as a “fluster cuck.”
“Don’t blame farmers for a crappy system,” she said.
But an unapologetic O’Connor says farmers and industry have been asking MPI to increase compliance so as to hold to account the people not complying.
“Last year I introduced a package of technical law changes to support the M.bovis eradication programme. As a result of that MPI increased the number of compliance staff,” he told Rural News.
“So far this year, they have conducted 455 on farm inspections. Well over half were [badly] non-compliant and now face enforcement action.”
O’Connor says compliance staff have served 82 notices of direction and 169 infringement notices to non-compliant farms.
With moving day just complete, the minister reminded farmers that animal movements are the main way the disease spreads.
“We want honesty in tracing so that we can track and trace every possible infected animal. We need to get... every single animal movement on every single farm... recorded. If we’d had that system before M. bovis we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.”
O’Connor says farmers needed to “step up” and take responsibility.
“This is not just a job for MPI. Every farmer in New Zealand has to play their part. We’ve ramped up our compliance activities and those who don’t comply will face the music.”
O’Connor claims that MPI is on track to eradicate M. bovis and needs the support of farmers.
“So get on to NAIT and complete your re-registration.”