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May 21, 2002

NEW ZEALAND: “Devastating” diseases could hit NZ, says expert

Professor Roger Morris, a global animal diseases expert at Massey University, has warned that New Zealand is vulnerable to devastating exotic animal diseases because of its poor biosecurity policies. There are so many holes in the protective procedures adopted by NZ’s agriculture and forestry ministry that any response to a serious disease outbreak would be too late, he explained.

Professor Roger Morris, a global animal diseases expert at Massey University, has warned that New Zealand is vulnerable to devastating exotic animal diseases because of its poor biosecurity policies.

There are so many holes in the protective procedures adopted by NZ’s agriculture and forestry ministry that any response to a serious disease outbreak would be too late, he explained.

Prof Morris is urging the NZ government to adopt the biosecurity model in operation in Australia, where plans to do with, and pay for, potential disease outbreaks are already established. He also thinks that in the long run, this could be cheaper.

“If we get disease problems,” he explained to Stuff, “we have to go through a decision process that involves Treasury, the ministry and industry groups to decide what action should be taken. With anything serious, that leaves it too late.

“I don’t believe the time to argue about costs is when you’re in the midst of an emergency.”

Barry O’Neill, group director of biosecurity at the agriculture and forestry ministry is adamant however that NZ cannot implement Australia’s scheme successfully.

It is impossible to create specific plans for every potential disease, he retorted: “Australia has 60 procedures, but there are hundreds of potential diseases.”

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