The crisis triggered by people not using the nation's animal tracking system is still being worked through.
The only plus to come out of the Mycoplasma bovis event is that people are now aware that the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme is important and has a practical use ... terrible thing to say, but it seems to have been the shock some people needed to comply: "Hey, maybe I don't want to put the nation at risk?"
Feds are now working through the government's proposed Act and regulation changes to improve NAIT. There are some we support, but there is one that has caught my eye because of the questions it raises around privacy and data security — my favourites.
Why? And what is it meant to achieve other than just give everyone the heebie jeebies?
The proposed regulation would allow any public sector organisation to have access to core data if their request meets at least one of the Act's purposes.
'My concern is, what if IRD or another government department used the [NAIT] information so they could gain against farmers? Where is the protection around information?'
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Great, but that would require all people in all the government organisations to be rational, be 100 per cent ethical all the time, and operate within the intention of the Act.
I have great concern about how the information could be used. Why on Earth does the Ministry of Social Welfare need access to NAIT? What would IRD use it for? My concern is, what if IRD or another government department used the information so they could gain against farmers? Where is the protection around information?
The word "intended" is bandied about inside the proposed regulation as well. Well, how helpful is that expression? The word is open to interpretation. Imagine being the court judge who would have to decide on any case using this regulation.
Maybe our policy-makers could just get it right the first time, using words that weren't so open to different interpretations. What you might intend could be different to what someone else intends.
I do want organisations to have better communications when it comes to dealing with animal movements and disease control, but it must be done above board, and the risk of abuse of whatever system we end up with must be minimised.
Seeing what is being put up does not put my heart at ease. You just have to look at other government programmes to see how well "intended" systems have failed.
What we need is for the police and councils to have access to information to help control wandering stock and ensure they are returned to where they came from — but if the government is going to give police and councils this access then they must also make sure police and council staff are given the right tools to do the job, and that means adequate training and funding.