February 9, 2008

More than 94% of New South Wales is now in the white zone after several so-called "hot spots" in the states were given the all-clear yesterday.

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said: "Exhaustive testing has failed to identify horse flu at Armidale, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Dubbo, Wellington, Parkes, Forbes and Grenfell.

"I am pleased to say this means these areas have joined the other 91% of NSW considered EI free and are now part of the white zone, previously known as the protected area green zone.

"At the height of the outbreak hundreds of horse properties in these areas were quarantined. Today, the gates open and they are free to move provided they have a Travelling Horses Statement (THS).

"Horses within the white zone can be moved over state borders more easily following the downgrading of the green zone to the same level of risk as interstate EI free areas."

Mr Macdonald described the rezoning as yet another achievement in the war against horse flu and the co-operative effort to rid NSW of this exotic disease.

"Without the support of the horse industries, the Rural Lands Protection Boards and private veterinarians we would not be faring this well."

The state government had spent almost $A46 million to rein in this disease, he said. Now it is time to finish the job and allow horse owners to reap the rewards of their effort and in some cases prolonged hardship."

Mr Macdonald said it was crucial that the horse industry abide by movement conditions and continue sensible biosecurity. "Now is not the time to let our guard down," he said.

"Biosecurity is more important than ever and I call on all horse owners and parts of the horse sector to remain alert and informed on any changes that the NSW Department of Primary Industries may implement.

In another significant move, the red zone north of the Hawkesbury River has been downgraded to amber, with a small area south of the Hawkesbury, near Wollongong and Camden, and the Blue Mountains remaining in the red zone while more testing is undertaken."

The amber zone in NSW now stands at just 2.62%, the red zone at 0.22%, and the purple zone is less than 3%.