A fuming Tutira farmer says an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis in Hawke's Bay is set to cost him thousands, despite the fact his herd doesn't have the disease.
The Operational Solutions for Primary Industries (OSPRI) says the disease has been detected in 29 animals in nine herds in the region since April 2019, with one herd since cleared.
As a precautionary action, OSPRI has implemented a livestock movement control area in Hawke's Bay in an attempt to prevent any potential spread of disease.
Toni Pullar, who has been farming for 18 years, said he worries farms within the movement control zone will lose business as a result.
"I supply service bulls to dairy farmers and beef farmers and now we're under movement control, it's like telling everyone you've got coronavirus," he said.
"They will not want to have animals from the area.
"I've been here 18 years and we've been TB-free forever. But that doesn't mean anything if you're in a movement control area."
Pullar added: "I'll kill the bulls for say $1500, but as a service bull I'd get around $2500 for it. So there is potential for me losing $1000 per animal – just because the area is on movement control."
Bulls, mature male bovines at least 2-years-old, are commonly used for breeding purposes, as they are not castrated because they have desired traits that producers want to use for breeding.
Tukituki National MP Lawrence Yule says he's worried about the extent of what OSPRI is doing.
"A third of Hawke's Bay will be placed on animal movement control," he said. "The main issue is that it is such a big area that's covered.
"To my knowledge, we've never had a movement control area as big as this in Hawke's Bay."
Yule added: "At this time of year, a lot of young animals get moved by farmers. All those animals will have to be tested now. And because they come from a movement control area, they could be worthless."
Cattle and deer heading for stock sales must have returned a clear TB test within 60 days prior to the date of movement.
OSPRI chief executive Stephen Stuart said its focus was to remove the cluster of infection and return Hawke's Bay to a TB-free status.
"The success of the TB programme is based on identifying disease, containing it with stock movement controls and removing the disease from herds," he said.
Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor described the latest outbreak as "disappointing", but said "the reality is TB has been in New Zealand since the 1950s".
"Such flare-ups have occurred from time to time and should not undermine the long term target of eradication across all New Zealand," he said.
"I asked for an explanation on how this happened, which I'm told was the failure of a buffer zone on the edges of the existing movement control area.
"I've asked them to look at all the buffer zones in place right across New Zealand to ensure this won't happen again."
The risk of bovine TB being transmitted to humans through food consumption is minimal, due to most milk for human consumption being pasteurised.
Pullar, who runs a farm with a C10 TB status – the highest level achievable – said years of good TB practice "will not make any difference".
"I've built up a good business over the years here, with a good clientele from all over the country, but this is bad news," he said.
"We have got meetings with OSPRI (this week) and I will be asking why they have put the whole district on movement control, when only so many farms have got TB detected."
TB is transmitted by possums and as part of OSPRI's work is managing and controlling possum numbers to prevent the transmission of disease between wildlife and livestock.
However, Yule questioned the timeframe of starting the possum control levels and movement control since the outbreak.
"You had nine animals test positive on a farm in April last year, yet it took you six months to start the poisoning operations of possums," he said.
"It wasn't until I saw the scale of the area involved that I realised how big of an issue this is. I want to probe why it took so long."