By Tracy Neal of RNZ

Tougher laws governing the movement of animals and harsher penalties for non-compliance are on the table under an overhaul of two key pieces of legislation.

The minister for biosecurity has today unveiled plans to upgrade the National Animal Identification and Tracing Act - or NAIT.

It was to be done in conjunction with a planned two-stage overhaul of the Biosecurity Act.

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Damien O'Connor said the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in New Zealand cattle was the single biggest biosecurity event the country has faced.

The bacterium caused a range of serious conditions in cattle, and remains active on 27 properties.

O'Connor said the outbreak and the response highlighted flaws in the NAIT scheme which linked people, property and livestock.

"We need to learn from the bovis experience and have better pieces of legislation as a result of it.

Minister for biosecurity, Damien O'Connor. Photo / Andrew Warner
Minister for biosecurity, Damien O'Connor. Photo / Andrew Warner

"I have been working with Biosecurity New Zealand and NAIT Limited, which manages the NAIT scheme, to fix it and make sure it is fit for the future.

"Earlier this year I announced a package of suggested changes to NAIT and Cabinet has now agreed to them.

O'Connor told a gathering today at a farm near Nelson that the 26 year-old Biosecurity Act was out of date, and unable to cope with an increase in large biosecurity responses in recent years, including M bovis, Myrtle Rust, Queensland Fruit Fly and Bonamia - a parasite that affected flat oysters.

He said the revised Act also aimed to address concerns around greater threats to our primary industries from exotic insects and pests as the climate warmed.

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Tourism, imports and even the rise of online shopping have all increased the country's biosecurity risk, he said.

"Today I have released the terms of reference that define the objectives and structure of the Biosecurity Act's overhaul. The work will be led by Biosecurity New Zealand, which has started working with Māori, industry, and others to upgrade the Act.

"We will look at every aspect of the Act including compensation and funding."

He will next week introduce an amendment bill to Parliament to improve NAIT.

"The changes we're making will take New Zealand a step closer to having the animal tracing scheme we need to keep our primary sectors and economy safe."

Dates for formal consultation on the Biosecurity Act will be announced later in the year and the public will have another opportunity to give feedback on the changes to the NAIT Act when the bill is in Select Committee.

- RNZ