Significant changes post-M.bovis
The NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) system was first introduced in 2012 and came into effect progressively until it was fully implemented on 29 February 2016.
Any completely new system is likely to need a review after being in operation for a period of time. Within 18 months of NAIT’s final implementation date, the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in this country gave the regime a real test and, not surprisingly, the system was found wanting in some respects.
Operational Solutions for Primary Industries (OSPRI) manages the NAIT system. OSPRI began its review of NAIT in early 2016, the purpose of the review being “to evaluate the implementation and performance of the programme since 2012 against its intended objectives and to make recommendations on any enhancements, changes and improvements that will ensure the intended benefits can be realised. The review sought to examine NAIT’s performance, uptake and outcomes, new and emerging drivers for traceability, operational and legislative issues, needs and priorities, and options to provide uptake, compliance and awareness.”
NAIT review recommendations
To a certain extent, the M.bovis outbreak, which has been devastating for many farmers, overtook the OSPRI review, as the response to the outbreak showed some inadequacies in the NAIT system. OSPRI’s NAIT review was released in March 2018 and the Minister for Primary Industries, Damien O’Connor, recently announced that the government intends to accept many of OSPRI’s recommendations, and it will make other changes as a result of the M.bovis outbreak. At the same time, the Minister will conduct a full review of the Biosecurity Act 1993 which is now 26 years old.
The NAIT review recommendations are grouped into five areas:
- How NAIT location information is registered and maintained
- Tag readability, visual coding, retention and replacement
- The roles and responsibilities associated with the various user roles
- The integrity of information recorded in NAIT focusing on compliance and ensuring that participants fulfil their legal obligations, and
- How NAIT is used for traceability purposes and how improvements can be made that will enable NAIT users, particularly farmers in remote locations, to more easily access the system and record information.
Proposed law changes
The review recommended a mix of operational and legislative change. Some of the proposed legislative changes are:
- A strict prohibition transporting untagged animals that don’t have an exemption. This means that transport operators will now have to satisfy themselves that animals they move are tagged or have exemption for the works
- Renaming the ‘impracticable to tag’ exemption to ‘unsafe to tag’ with that exemption expiring in five years. Also proposed is changing the timeframe for a PICA to declare the movement of those animals from ‘48 hours prior’ to ‘before sending’ and to ensure that such animals are visibly identifiable
- Enabling a seller to make the location history of a NAIT animal available to a purchaser of that animal
- NAIT tags can only be used on livestock for the NAIT location they are issued for. After a transition period it will become an offence to apply the tags issued for a particular NAIT location on animals that reside in a different NAIT location
- Align penalty limits and infringement fees in the NAIT Act with those in the Biosecurity Act 1993 and Animal Products Act 1999; this will increase the range of penalties the courts can impose. The review notes that initially compliance with NAIT was predicated on commercial incentives to comply rather than enforcement, that is, commercial drivers would make participants want to properly use the NAIT scheme. This didn’t happen and the government has realised that penalties and fines are needed to ensure compliance
- Clarify the use of, and access to, NAIT data to include responding to stock rustling and wandering stock. It will also enable all public sector organisations to apply for access to NAIT data. Confirmation is required that the Crown owns the NAIT data, and
- Amend the definition of a PICA to include body corporates; currently a PICA must be natural person. This change is intended to address systemic non-compliance by corporate bodies.
Making NAIT apps more user-friendly
One recommendation that doesn’t require a legislative response is the recommendation that NAIT be required to develop mobile applications and lightweight NAIT web applications for improved access by end users. The current NAIT application was designed for use on a large screen such as a PC or laptop, however on smaller devices such as a smartphones or tablets the app is difficult to use. Technology has moved on since 2012 and this recommendation is based on ensuring greater ease of use and thus greater NAIT compliance.
The review is comprehensive, as is the Minister’s response. Given the damage that M.bovis has caused, and that the NAIT system was found seriously deficient in its first real test, it is probable that these changes will be met with general support.