June 19, 2008

An outbreak of equine influenza in New Zealand could have a $500 million impact on the economy over a four-month period.

The figure is contained in an application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) for condition approval of the Proteqflu vaccine, which contains genetically modified canary pox virus.

The applicants, the New Zealand Racing Board and the New Zealand Equine Health Association, highlighted the likely economic impact of an EI incursion in their application.

The figures come from a New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) report prepared for Biosecurity New Zealand.

"The NZIER assessed the economic impacts and found that the direct costs to the industry would be in the vicinity of $167 million and the impact to the economy based on the current economic contribution that the equine industry makes to the New Zealand economy could be as high as $500 million over a four-month period.

"It was also identified that if the disease was not quickly eradicated there would be ongoing economic impacts especially to the breeding and export sectors."

More than 40,000 people derive their livelihoods from the equine and racing industries in New Zealand.

"Local businesses, particularly in provinces and rural communities, benefit from the industries' economic wellbeing.

"Racing alone generates more than $1.4 billion in economic activity each year and creates 18,300 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs. The export sale of horses generates more than $120 million each year and more than 4700 horses travel between Australian and NZ each year.

"Currently, under the Biosecurity Act 2003, the New Zealand government would also be likely to have to pay compensation for losses that could be attributed to the outbreak ... the NZIER has identified this extra amount as being in the vicinity of a further $9 million per month."