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Finlay Hill review backs Qld approach to BJD

Beef Central, 17/06/2013

A review into Queensland's response to the detection of Bovine Johne's Disease has recommended that the state persist with efforts to maintain its Protected Zone status in order to maintain access to export markets.

In March this year Queensland agriculture minister John McVeigh commissioned former AgForce president Brent Finlay and veterinary professor Jonathan Hill to conduct an independent assessment of his department’s response to a BJD incursion that involved the quarantining of more than 150 cattle properties, and to provide recommendations on how the state could improve its disease preparedness for the future.

The reviewers spoke to people at government, departmental and industry level, including many producers affected by the quarantine response, and handed their final report to the minister on April 30.

After holding the report for more than six weeks the minister released it on the QDAFF website today.

The review said BJD experience had thoroughly tested the disease preparedness of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, but found the department’s response was handled professionally, and after a slow start became well organised and responsive to commercial imperatives.

However the response would have benefited from a greater sense of urgency and authority in early stages, a better communications strategy to keep affected producers up to date with important information, and earlier assistance to create options and pathways to market for affected properties, the reviewers said.

The report reveals that the BJD detection at the Rockley Stud at Bajool near Rockhampton in November last year was the 24th in Queensland since 1990.

The majority of previous incidents arrived in the state via introduced animals from other states, except for four animals located at Mutdapilly, Sarina and now Rockhampton. (Since the completion of the Finlay Hill report the Rockley strain has been identified as a likely bison strain from overseas, having most likely entered the country via an imported bull.)

The report said industry groups had commended Minister John McVeigh on his efforts to personally come to grips with the challenges faced by QDAFF and to lead consultations with industry.

“The end result has been an interactive facilitated means of achieving agreement on the way forward to manage the BJD incident,” the reviewers said.

“It has also gathered valuable insight from a broad range of stakeholders to guide future management of biosecurity incidents in the northern extensive areas.”

The report said QDAFF was to be congratulated on its “perseverance in maintaining a Protect Zone through enforcement of quarantine restrictions accompanies by accurate diagnostic testing".

“This review found strong support for the policy of maintaining Qld’s protected status for BJD and its alignment with the imperative to maintaining access to export markets.

“There was overall recognition that the national reputation for quality beef derived from healthy animals benefits from maintaining the National BJD program and specifically from Qld’s protected status for BJD.”

Looking to the future of Queensland’s disease preparedness, Mr Finlay and Dr Hill said Queensland’s biosecurity officers had been ‘battle hardened’ by several major recent animal disease incidents in addition to BJD which also included Equine Influenza, Hendra and Lyssavirus.

“The experience and corporate knowledge gained in handling these incidents is valuable and provides a strong platform for future responses.

Their report and the 45 recommendations it contains can be viewed by clicking here

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