News & Press: NZVA media release

Mycoplasma bovis apology accepted

Thursday, 4 July 2019  
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The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) accepts the Government's public apologies for the way the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has handled the programme to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.

NZVA Chief Veterinary Officer Helen Beattie said two reviews released yesterday by MPI Director-General Ray Smith – along with a "sorry" to farmers – were a relief after 22 months of frustration for veterinarians trying to contribute and get and share information with MPI during the disease outbreak.

"Veterinarians have been at their wits end on how best to support the eradication programme, help farmers and work together effectively with MPI. Operating in a vacuum has added extraordinary levels of stress for farmers and their veterinarians who have very close working relationships that MPI could be using to advantage," Helen said.

"We have some fantastic veterinary colleagues working in different parts of MPI so we know how committed and hard-working they are. It is a real shame that some of the processes critical for effectively managing the M. bovis response have let them down too," Helen said.

"We are grateful that MPI has identified and publicly acknowledged its failings. We hope that this signals the start of a new chapter where veterinarian expertise and insight is valued by MPI in biosecurity responses. We are certainly willing and more than able to help."

Helen said the Minister for Agriculture Damien O'Connor also struck a chord yesterday when he apologised during a radio interview. [6:33-8:30]

The Minister made the apology when discussing the Outstanding Contribution to the Primary Industries Award presented this week to Merlyn Hay, the veterinarian whose tenacity led to the identification of Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand. During the interview the Minister praised Merlyn for bringing the disease to light and saving the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

"He also said that he had apologised to her on behalf of MPI who had at times rejected or ignored advice from the veterinary profession," Helen said. "That apology means a lot to us."

One of the reports released by MPI recommends that farmers and veterinarians become part of regional control teams to improve communication and disease management. Helen said this was encouraging and that the NZVA, which represents 80% of New Zealand's veterinarians, would continue to offer to liaise with MPI so that veterinarian skills, knowledge and on-farm relationships are leveraged effectively.

Media contact:
NZVA Senior Communications Advisor Mike Eng, michael.eng@vets.org.nz, phone 027 397 4770.