Livestockers worry Big Brother is coming down to the farm

By Adam Bennett

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Big Brother is coming to the animal farm with a compulsory electronic identification and tracking system for livestock, warns Federated Farmers.

Parliament's primary production committee will today hear submissions on the Government's National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) Bill.

The Nait regime, first mooted by the last Labour Government and picked up by National, is a data recording and collection system by which cattle and deer will be chipped, with information collected and held on a database.

Agriculture Minister David Carter said the system would bring New Zealand into line with many other countries and will deliver benefits of at least $38 million a year.

While the system wouldn't help prevent an outbreak of foot and mouth disease it could reduce the the financial impact by as much as $1 billion over two years, said Mr Carter.

However, while the legislation has the support of the meat industry, it is bitterly opposed by Federated Farmers whose dairy sector spokesman Lachlan McKenzie will present the organisations's submission this afternoon.

Mr McKenzie yesterday said that his organisation had worked with the Nait organisation, "and there has been some significant improvement, but unfortunately those improvements haven't gone far enough".

Federated Farmers' major concerns about the proposed regime included its cost, its use of what was now regarded as obsolete technology, the powers the overseeing organisation would have to demand and even seize information, and the prospect the information gathered would be used to calculate charges for farm animals' greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr McKenzie said farmers feared the legislation would give the Nait organisation search and seizure powers, "equivalent to, or greater than the police".

"That's completely intolerable in the democracy we have in New Zealand."

Furthermore, the only way the Government was going to be able to tax farmers for methane emissions of individual animals was by having data on where they were born and how long they lived on a farmer's property which would available only through Nait.

"Not only can they jackboot into my house but they'll be sending me a massive tax bill."

Federated Farmers were also unconvinced the system which may saddle farmers with an additional $5000 in expenses each year would deliver the biosecurity or market access benefits claimed by the Government and the meat industry.

Federated Farmers favours a voluntary animal identification and tracking regime.

- NZ Herald

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