Farmers oppose council plan to end collection of TB levy

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014

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Farmers turned up to throw cold water on Waikato Regional Council's proposal to stop collecting a levy on behalf of TBfree New Zealand.

Te Awamutu farmer Leith Chick was the first to speak on the council's draft annual plan for 2014/15 this week, urging the local authority to continue collecting the levy.

The council decided, in 2012, not to continue as TBfree NZ's collection agency asked the organisation to find another way to collect $650,000 from farmers in the 2014/15 financial year.

"Farmers are in favour of this levy for properties over 2 hectares," Chick told councillors.

"The last time council withdrew funding over 1100 submissions were received. I can assure you that the sentiment has not changed.

"$100 million of TBfree funds has benefited the Waikato, yet TB is still rampant.

"The milk production in the Waikato could easily be 10 per cent lower," he warned. "The eradication of TB is far more important than to be stymied by political point scoring. As a farmer I do not want to return to the financial and emotional stress of waiting for the results of the next TB test."

Chick, who also spoke to a submission from the NZ Deer Farmers Association, said deer were far more susceptible to TB than cattle were. "Cutting funding extends that risk."

Chick said the council was not representing the best interests of farmers.

Waikato TBfree committee chairman John Bubb also asked the council to change its mind since there were seven infected herds in the Waikato.

"The withdrawing of the targeted rate from your plan puts the Waikato at risk. Clearly this is a targeted rate that farmers are happy to pay."

Bubb said the funding review of the National Pest Management Strategy was due to be presented to the Ministry for Primary Industries on August 8.

"My request is that you include the bovine TB funding in this year's annual plan via a targeted rate, as in previous years. Then, following the review, hopefully the regional sector group will get consensus from all regional councils that will see the regional councils have a common approach to any future funding arrangements."

Otorohanga Federated Farmers chairman Garry Voogt said bovine TB was at a low level in the Waikato. "Now is not the time to reduce the level of funding when the end goal is in sight."

But Barry Eaton supported the council.

"TBfree New Zealand is not accountable to the regional council or ratepayers. TBfree and Waikato Regional Council have different objectives and strategies. Having 20 per cent of rural rates collected for TBfree is a huge unfair burden on rural ratepayers. Many ratepayers live outside bovine TB risk areas and receive no benefits from these rates." Eaton said control of stock movements needed to be tightened.

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"This is the major factor in eradicating the disease."

* This story has been changed to correct the figure of infected herds from 70 to seven.

- Waikato Times

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