Australia and New Zealand have agreed to work together to prepare for the unlikely event of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in either country.
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and New Zealand Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, met today in Melbourne and welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to stress the importance of collaboration in combating the disease and its devastating impacts.
“Our number one plan and focus of much of our biosecurity efforts is to keep FMD out of Australia and New Zealand—but you can’t stick your head in the sand about something this significant —you have to plan for the worst,” Minister Joyce says.
“Australia has an internationally recognised capability to deal quickly and effectively with emergency animal disease outbreaks. However, an FMD outbreak could have devastating impacts on our valuable livestock industries, exporting capabilities and trading reputation.
“Recent ABARES research found the impact of an FMD outbreak in Australia could cost our economy up to $52 billion over 10 years, therefore we have more than 50 billion reasons to work together to continue Australia’s 100 year record of freedom from FMD,” he says.
Nathan Guy said greater collaboration would improve readiness and capacity to cope with an outbreak of FMD or any other significant exotic animal disease.
“We will work together in fields such as sharing intelligence on risk, collaborating on training opportunities, sharing scarce skills in the event of an outbreak and influencing international policy in the area of disease management.
“New Zealand has now joined the well-established Australian FMD training programme in Nepal, which has engaged the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to provide veterinarians and key livestock industry representatives the opportunity to experience FMD in the field.
“It is well known that an outbreak of FMD would cause significant economic and social damage with the closure of many international markets for animal products and control measures having huge impacts on tourism, food chain businesses, farming families, rural business and communities,” Guy says.
Another benefit of the MoU is helping to ensure that an international reserve of veterinary specialists and other skilled personnel can be activated quickly.
New Zealand recently provided veterinary assistance to the successful New South Wales avian influenza eradication effort and continues to observe the Australian FMD simulation– Exercise Odysseus – a series of discussion and field-base exercises being held throughout 2014.
“Exercise simulations and participation in activities also ensures there is a mutual understanding of how systems work in the other country, which means that staff can rapidly integrate into the other country’s systems in the event they are needed,” explains Guy.
Minister Joyce said working closely together and participating in exercises helped build very useful links between the two countries.
“Australia and New Zealand have a long history of cooperation in areas of mutual interest and preparedness for a significant animal disease outbreak is certainly a worthy area to partner on.”