Farm businesses hit by the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis aren’t alone in experiencing teeth-gnashing delays in getting responses out of the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The ministry is dragging its feet on responding to Official Information Act requests by the Herald.
Farmers cite delays in getting timely information and compensation payments for destroyed cattle from the ministry as one of the most distressing frustrations of the disease event.
The Government’s decision last month to try to eradicate M. bovis by continuing a mass cull of cattle on properties deemed infected is expected to cost nearly $900 million – most of which will be picked up by the taxpayer.
The disease, which does not affect humans or milk or meat, was first diagnosed on a South Island dairy farm in July last year. Investigations on how it arrived in New Zealand are ongoing.
On March 29, the Herald asked MPI under the OIA to provide the information that was redacted from the public release of its analysis of risk pathways for the introduction of M. bovis. Six possible pathways were published, the seventh was redacted.
The Herald identified it as imported veterinary medicines and biological products.
The OIA requires a response to an application within 20 working days.
MPI’s response was to refuse to release all information relating to the Herald’s request because an investigation was ongoing. The Herald asked the Ombudsman to investigate and MPI on June 14 said it was willing to reconsider its decision.
It said it would register the request as a new application, meaning another 20 working days wait time, “but will endeavour to provide a decision as promptly as possible”. As yet there has been no response.
On May 24 the Herald made another OIA application, this time for detailed information about Biosecurity NZ, MPI’s biosecurity arm.
On June 22, MPI responded that it was not able to respond within the 20-working-day time limit set by the Act and would need an extension. It would respond no later than July 27 and earlier if possible.
The Herald has asked the Ombudsman to investigate and review the extension request.
A spokesperson said MPI believed its responses to both OIA requests had been appropriate.
Some material was with withheld from the risk pathway analysis because it was pertinent to a compliance investigation. MPI expected to be able to respond in the near future.
The second request was for information about MPI employees and required careful consideration and the notification of those individuals.
By: Andrea Fox
Source: NZ Herald