8 Jul 2021

Breakthrough in Hawkes Bay TB response

12:51 pm on 8 July 2021

The animal health agency working to eradicate TB in the Hawkes Bay has gained access to two large forestry blocks in order to cull possums.

No caption

Bovine TB is mainly spread by possums Photo: chill/123RF

OSPRI is working to eradicate the disease - which is spread mainly by possums and can compromise immune systems in stock, causing serious production losses and animal welfare issues.

There are currently 18 herds infected with Bovine TB in the region - but there are also 572 herds under restricted movement controls - which means those farmers can't move stock off farm without approval - which is a source of great frustration for some in the area.

During the response OSPRI has had trouble getting approval from some land owners to carry out pest control work, which can involve 1080 drops.

But an OSPRI spokesperson Dan Schmidt said after years of discussions its now been given access two new blocks - one in the Waipunga area and the other in Esk Valley.

"We've reached a joint understanding for some of the key landowners through there to achieve pest control possum control to enable us to to get on top of the outbreak here in Hawke's Bay.

"We've been working with these landowners for quite some time, it's been around building relationships to achieve outcomes that are good for them as well is what we need, so it's been some years to get to this point."

Mr Schmidt said they will now be able to conduct 1080 drops in the areas and set traps.

"We are working to towards clearing TB from the Hawkes Bay so this is a significant step forward in achieving that by 2026."

Dan Schmidt said community meetings in the region this week have been positive with farmers happy with the development.

Hawkes Bay Rural Support Trust spokesman, Kevin Mitchell agreed saying farmers are happy process is being made.

"It's a huge step forward. Because, you know, a couple of these blocks haven't had pest control done for 10 years, and they've really been a source of infection that that have been frustrating the hell out of farmers in the district.

"It's been pretty unsatisfactory. It should have been, it's an issue that definitely should have been solved before now. Because it's just left an infection in the, in the northern Hawke's Bay Area that's simmered away and then spread."

As a result, we've got 572 heads in there second year and movement control it will take a few more years of control but the first step was getting access to this land, Mr Mitchell said.

He said there's still a lot of frustration amongst farmers over the movement controls as they can't sell store stock to other farmers or through the sale yards.

"A lot of this is breeding country so it severely limits their options, if they find out they have TB just before Winter they're usually over stocked and they've got limited options so farmers have really had to adapt.

"A lot of the farmers with infected herds have taken a serious financial hit so it's not been easy."

Farmers are only compensated for their animals that get infected.

"There's no compensation for the other losses farmers make it seems a bit unfair. Because, you know, these farmers have been affected through no fault of their own.

"As long as OSPRI do the work and get on top of the pests and the situation doesn't go on any longer than necessary, then then we'll support them through it. But boy, it hasn't been easy," Mr Mitchell said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs