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No room at the inn if NZ opens borders to Aussie horses

December 17, 2007

by Neil Clarkson

New Zealand's existing quarantine facilities would be able to cope with only a fraction of the likely demand from trans-Tasman horse movements once the country re-opens its borders to horses from Australia.

The New Zealand Racing Board's publication, Inside Running, discussed the recent formation of a contingency planning group aimed at ensuring the country had cohesive risk management and plans in place should New Zealand be exposed to a similar equine-related crisis.

Greg Purcell, appointed as project manager for the group, was commenting on the eventual recommencement of horse imports from Australia.

The group, comprising representatives from equine and racing interests, was undertaking a review of New Zealand's current quarantine measures, he said.

"Last year, more than 1500 horses were imported from Australia to New Zealand," he said.

"However, the current New Zealand quarantine facilities can only house up to 20 horses.

"We will be working closely with MAF to ensure that appropriate quarantine facilities are established in New Zealand to manage the movement of horses across the Tasman."

Mr Purcell said a five-week quarantine period for all horses imported from Australia is likely to be introduced.

Horsetalk believes the quarantine protocol will allow for three weeks in quarantine in Australia before departure, with two weeks upon arrival in New Zealand.

Given that horses would be unable to come and go during confinement, that would allow the facilities to handle only 26 intakes a year of 20 horses, for an annual total of 520 - just a third of the annual numbers before the equine flu outbreak closed borders.

Mr Purcell said import quarantine restrictions were expected to continue until at least February 2009.

He said the New Zealand Racing Board had negotiated a contract with Intervet to secure a guaranteed supply of 70,000 doses of equine flu vaccine, should it be required, over the next 12 months. The vaccine would be for the exclusive use of the Racing Board. This is over and above the 50,000 doses of vaccine held by MAF, he said.



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