Nearly 1.6 million hectares declared free of bovine TB

Date 4 July 2016

New Zealand has taken another step towards becoming TB-free with large areas of previously infected land being declared free of the disease.

As part of the TBfree programme, OSPRI progressively achieves TB eradication by first completing intensive possum control and then carrying out wildlife surveys to confirm the disease has been eradicated from the area. As a result of this work a total area of nearly 1.6 million hectares has been declared free of the disease since 2011.

OSPRI CEO Michelle Edge says this is fantastic milestone for the TBfree programme and reflects the ongoing investment by our shareholders, farmers and contractors who help to deliver these results.

Well established scientific research underpins this work. Before an area is declared free of disease, data is analysed using epidemiological and ecological models developed in conjunction with Landcare Research, to provide a statistical estimate of the probability that TB has been eradicated from the possum population.

Ms Edge says, ‘A case for each area of land, with previously known TB infection in the wildlife, is created to demonstrate a high probability of disease freedom. The case is provided to a review panel of ecologists and epidemiologists, including two external members, who verify the results and make a final recommendation.’

The current TB plan was recently approved by the government and came into effect on 1 July. The key objectives of the plan are the biological eradication of TB from New Zealand by 2055, with TB freedom (i.e. high confidence the disease is gone) in livestock by 2026 and possums by 2040.

Two important changes to the plan will see the introduction of risk-based approaches to TB testing and surveillance in livestock, and a new prioritisation of control and surveillance of wildlife, primarily possums.

Ms Edge says, ‘Given the scope of these changes it is important to understand that the new plan will be phased in according to the design shaped by our field-based research. We are working closely with our shareholders to understand the implications of the new plan on our operational-based work programmes.’

More details about the work to implement the new plan will be shared over the coming weeks.

Background information

OSPRI helps protect and enhance the reputation of New Zealand’s primary industries. It currently runs the NAIT and TBfree programmes. OSPRI is funded by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Deer Industry New Zealand and the New Zealand Government.

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