April 9, 2008

Levies on horse owners in Australia are a step closer after the Australian Horse Industry Council's industry advisory committee agreed in principle to levies to cover responses to disease outbreaks.

The levies would be paid by horse owners under the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA).

The proposal of a levy has been in the news since Australia's equine flu outbreak.

Dr Geoff Neumann, a former chief executive of Animal Health Australia and now a consultant, explained how levies worked for other livestock industries.

"EADRA not only provides certainty of funding for the initial response to a disease outbreak, but it ensures that a response is managed in a uniformly and agreed manner, and that standards for providing resources, training, accounting and auditing are applied," he said.

The committee agreed unanimously that there was a need for a levy system in the horse industry, and that being a signatory to EADRA was essential to "future proof" the horse industry against the effects of exotic disease incursions.

The committee agreed that the levy should be broad-based, with a large number of people paying a levy in order that the amount can be kept to a minimum.

Dr Barry Smyth, president of the Australian Horse Industry Council, said: "It is a great step forward that the committee has agreed in principle with the concept of the levy."

This, he said, reaffirmed the decision made in 2006 after widespread horse industry consultation.

"There remains a healthy debate over what levy might be imposed, and how it would best be collected. We are promoting active discussions on this issue, and will be looking for input from horse organisations on what is a fair and equitable levy, and how it might best be collected."

Other topics of discussion during the committee meeting were communications within the horse industry, government relationships, and a national horse identification and database scheme.

This was the committee's second meeting, and it expects to be convened a number of times each year. It comprises the largest AHIC member groups and state horse councils.

It was set up to advise the AHIC Board on all matters to do with the horse, and represents a large part of the active participants in horse industry organisations in Australia.

There were a variety of sectors present at the IAC meeting, including: Arabians, the Equestrian Federation of Australia, Thoroughbred Breeders, Stock Horses, Quarter Horses, Polocrosse, Campdraft, Welsh Pony and Cob Society, Pony Clubs Australia, Queensland and SA Horse Councils, Riding Pony Stud Book and the Campdraft and Rodeo Association.