OSPRI Committees support farmer interests
West Coast dairy farmer Andrew Stewart discusses the value of being an OSPRI Committee member and how it has changed since he first joined.
How long have you been with your local OSPRI Committee?
Over six years now. In the past it was known as the TBfree committee. We still meet four times a year in Greymouth.
Why and how did you join?
Growing up on the Coast as a farmer you are familiar with pest control and stock movement control areas (MCAs), so I had a keen interest in how it worked and who was behind it. I was a local Young Farmer representative at the time, and I got shoulder tapped. There were originally three core members and nine area members with the focus on managing TB. I recall it took a wee while to get your head around things, but there was plenty of support from the OSPRI Extension Team to give you confidence on how to articulate your ideas at meetings.
What value and insights have you got from being involved?
The group is geographically split and come from all corners of the Coast, so that makes it interesting as you get to meet other farmers’ and share ideas and know their perspective. The Committee really broadens your knowledge, and I’ve learned more about the wider industry and where the farmer dollar is being spent and why. I also enjoy the farmer engagement side at industry events, where you can join the OSPRI team and ‘chew the fat’ with farmers on OSPRI’s disease management and traceability activities.
How has the role of the Committees evolved?
There’s a NAIT focus now and the Committees are providing input on the current development of the new NAIT system and other OSPRI activities. OSPRI leaders are also visible and approachable, the CEO Steve Stuart visited and outlined his future OSPRI vision and Board member Fenton Wilson discussed the Board and their role. NAIT chief Kevin Forward has been down a few times and is very engaging and wants to help improve NAIT for farmers.
What challenges is your local committee focusing on at present?
On the Coast 90% is native bush and Department of Conservation (DoC) owned. This is a perfect habitat for possums to keep TB alive and remains a perennial challenge to get under control. While it might take a bit longer to get where the rest of the country is, we're making significant progress, with the number of TB infected herds halved in my time over six years.
Why should farmers consider joining an OSPRI committee?
It’s a great opportunity to meet farmers you wouldn’t usually know. The camaraderie and pulling together for one cause and the ability to stop something becoming an issue is satisfying. You can also influence the thinking in Wellington too and get your point of view heard.