Bonding scheme must continue

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 09:53 12/10/2012

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Bonding young veterinarians means 83 vets are working in rural practices, says the head of the Veterinary Association (NZVA), Gavin Sinclair.

The Government's rural bonding scheme for vets, which is into its fourth year, has brought vibrant young vets to rural areas, he said.

"They are highly skilled young people and they bring the latest science, techniques and thinking to rural practices."

The bonding system attracts veterinary graduates with a taxable payment of $11,000 a year for up to five years, for every year they are in rural practice.

Sinclair said the scheme meant veterinary graduates who would have headed off overseas to try to pay their loan could stay and contribute to the local community.

He said the scheme for vets was over-subscribed now, after not reaching full numbers during the first year of operation.

"It did define areas it would operate in, which caused controversy - Gisborne city was not included, even though it services a vast rural area. It now is included in the scheme."

He said it was still a pilot and the Primary Industries Ministry which administered the scheme, was watching to see if vets stayed in rural communities when their five years were up.

Sinclair said it was vital that the scheme continued, because it brought vitality to rural practices.

And there were fewer inductions (forced premature birth) of dairy cows this spring, Sinclair said.

Cows are forced to calve to bring them into early milk production.

The number of inductions has been falling for years, and Sinclair said many in the veterinary profession would like to see it end as soon as possible.

"But we are working with the dairy industry and key stakeholders, including Federated Farmers, to reduce inductions. We'd like to phase it out but we're working with them, and they don't want it gone completely."

Another 4 per cent of inductions are to be allowed next season, then the practice will end.

Sinclair said no inductions would be allowed in the following season, 2013-14.

The veterinary association was pleased to see the law over animal welfare regulations strengthened. The Primary Industry Ministry is proposing to reform the Animal Welfare Act so that codes of animal welfare are translated into enforceable regulations.

"The NZVA has long called for this, and we are really pleased to see it on the agenda.

"At the moment, it is hard to get a prosecution in the many cases of animal welfare."

Sinclair said this would tighten the act and farmers and pet owners could no longer say that they didn't know what was required of them.

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"It has created certainty over what is expected.

"It is pleasing to see improvements and reforms, rather than reports of tragedies of animal abuse and neglect."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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