January 9, 2008

The powerful group driving Australia's equine flu campaign has given approval for up to $A108 million to be spent on eradication efforts.

The Equine Influenza National Management Group (NMG) said this week that spending had reached $A64 million.

"All parties agreed that the strategy of eradication should continue to be supported, with a projection of eradication by the middle of 2008," the group said, adding that the campaign remained "very much on track".

It welcomed reports that the number of new infected premises had dropped significantly and that there had been good progress on implementing protocols to free up the movement of horses between affected zones.

NMG endorsed a document outlining minimum conditions for movements of horses between zones and agreed that states should use these to develop detailed protocols for equestrian events in collaboration with industry to allow further movement and activities.

In endorsing the continuation of the eradication effort, the group acknowledged the significant impacts on staff and organisations that result from a major, protracted emergency response.

It noted concern that fatigue and other work demands should not become a distraction and undermine eradication efforts.

"Given the crucial need to continue focused effort in the months ahead, [the group] agreed that Queensland and NSW should move the response to a more stable project management arrangement to assist in achieving eradication."

NMG further agreed that a nationally coordinated zone reduction strategy be developed in early January to rapidly achieve eradication through focused effort on areas of continued infections, along with the complementary removal of broader controls.

The National Management Group comprises the chief executive Officers of the Commonwealth and State/Territory departments of agriculture/primary industries across Australia and also representatives of horse industry peak bodies.

It is chaired by the Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Dr Conall O'Connell.