Farmers are urged to make submissions on the latest consultation on how the much-maligned National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme can be improved.

Yesterday, the Ministry for Primary Industries announced it was seeking feedback on proposed changes to the Nait Act 2012 and regulations.

The aim was to improve how biosecurity risks were managed and to enhance the traceability of animals.

The response to the outbreak of bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis highlighted gaping holes in the Nait scheme.


In a statement, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the scheme should have worked better during the response.

''I'm determined to help transform it into an easy-to-use, world-class traceability system to keep our primary sectors and the economy safe,'' he said.

Earlier this year, a long-awaited review of Nait found a variety of flaws in the system and more than half of users were not recording farm-to-farm movements.

OSPRI was instructed to ''crack on'' with making operational changes and fixed the Nait Act 2012 under urgency to bring its search and inspection powers in line with other Acts to ensure compliance officers could do their jobs.

Now, MPI needed to hear from those who used Nait every day to tell it what changes to the law would make the system both a useful business tool and an effective biosecurity tool, he said.

MPI launched the regulatory consultation at a technical briefing for farming and industry stakeholders.

It looked at ways to tighten rules concerning handling untagged animals, improve the use of data and align penalties with other Acts to reflect the seriousness of non-compliance.

It discussed longer-term improvements such as including other species and specifying roles for transporters and stock agents.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said it was important farmers made sure any changes delivered benefits and were workable.

''We're all aware that changes need to be made to Nait, and while B+LNZ is supportive of many of the proposals being consulted on, any changes must be practical for farmers to implement.''

An example of that was MPI's interest in whether other species, such as sheep, should be included. B+LNZ was urging caution on that.

''B+LNZ and farmers want to see improved traceability systems for all livestock, and we've been advocating for this for some time.

''The Nait scheme has been designed to allow the inclusion of other species at different levels, recognising that individual eartagging is not the most appropriate way to include all species, for example sheep.

''The important thing in a biosecurity emergency is to rapidly understand where livestock farms are and which ones have been moving stock to each other.

''Making Animal Status Declarations (ASDs), which farmers already use for all movements, electronic (eASDs) would deliver a similar benefit,'' he said.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said Mycoplasma bovis had highlighted the importance of an effective traceability scheme and every farmer should take the opportunity to express their view. Public consultation ends on December 19.