TBfree committees join forces
The success of OSPRI’s TBfree programme in the northern North Island has prompted the TBfree committees for Waikato, Auckland and the Bay of Plenty to amalgamate - with the first combined regional AGM on May 16.
Te Kuiti sheep farmer Chris Irons has been actively involved with OSPRI’s TBfree programme. He took some time out to talk about his role and the satisfaction he has got from seeing significant reduction with TB testing in herds, leading to Waikato being almost vector free.
He encourages farmers to get involved with OSPRI’s TB free programme and says the progress made in his region can be emulated elsewhere in the country.
Chris Irons, TBfree Committee Chair - Waikato
How long have you been involved?
Probably around a good five years. As Federated Farmers’ meat and wool delegate I got to know about the Committee and have since gone on to be chairperson for the past two years.
Why and how did you get involved?
I was shoulder tapped by Walter Scott who was retiring at the time. I’ve always had an interest in disease management and was keen to get the message out about TB. Joining the committee I could see an opportunity to help with eradication. As a farmer you want to help the industry and support an initiative which is for the greater good.
Tell me about your role and the committee’s work?
Generally it’s a two way system, sharing information from the ground with OSPRI and meeting to discuss the latest news circulated by OSPRI about the TBfree programme. We’ll also look at any issues or queries that have come up from farmers.
We meet about three to four times a year in Hamilton or Ruakura and meetings are usually around two hours depending on what is occurring with the TB and NAIT programmes at the time. The agenda these days is widening in scope with NAIT often brought up and we are also in the process of setting up a combined committee of Waikato, Auckland and Bay of Plenty. The first AGM is planned for May 16.
What does that mean for you and future committees?
There will still be the same number of delegates representing the regions with one chairperson. We are combining the committees to reduce duplication as most of the time it is the same communication messages to farmers for the whole area.
What are some achievements or milestones over the past five years?
There’s been a big push on rolling back disease in possums through intensive control and then survey to ensure the disease is gone, after this happened we’ve been able to significantly cut down the amount of TB testing in Waikato. The programme has been so successful that the greatest risk now is not possums, but trucks coming on-farm and bringing stock from other regions which might not be as advanced in their TB programme as we are.
With the exception of the Taupo region, where there are inaccessible areas because of heavy bush, that still require further control to achieve TB freedom in possums, the Waikato zone is virtually vector free and that is very satisfying.
Why should farmers consider joining a TBfree committee?
Well, you can’t change anything bitching and moaning behind the farm gate. If you want to make a difference, get involved in your local committee. We need farmers talking to farmers as that is the type of communication farmers can best relate to and you’ll be helping the primary sector with one of the many future challenges it faces.
Interested in joining a TBfree Committee?
Over the next few months we are taking registrations of interest to appoint representatives for the TBfree committees - find out more here