Quarantine goes in proposed new import standard

November 21, 2008

The five weeks of quarantine required for horses from Australia will be gone by the end of January if a proposed new import health standard for horses is adopted.

The draft of the new standard was released today by New Zealand biosecurity officials.

If approved, the three-week quarantine period in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand will be dropped.

This will open the way for a resumption of the much cheaper sea-freight option for horse owners, costing roughly a third of the current combined cost of airfreight and the five weeks of quarantine.

The proposed new standard, which is open for public submissions until December 22, drops the current requirement for equine influenza vaccination.

MAF Biosecurity says the new conditions can be finalised only after formal recognition of Australia's freedom from equine influenza under World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) guidelines.

Under these guidlines, a country cannot be considered free of flu until a year after the last reported case. The last reported case in Australia was in Queensland on Christmas Day last year.

Depending on the results of consultation, the new quarantine-free requirements will be in place by Monday, January 26, next year.

New Zealand's borders were closed to horses from Australia following the outbreak in August last year.

Imports resumed only in mid-May this year, subject to the five-week quarantine requirement.

Racing interests have expressed a desire in recent weeks to free up imports to allow thoroughbreds to cross the Tasman for summer racing carnivals.

Just this week the Environmental Risk Management Authority gave conditional approval for use of a genetically modified equine flu vaccine in the event an outbreak in New Zealand.