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Anxious wait for farmers as Government announces M. bovis plan

Matariki greets us all tomorrow - Friday, June 15 - heralding the new year in Te Ao Maori (the Maori worldview).

It is a time that commemorates the natural cosmos and ecological cycle of newness, and the end of life.

Matariki is the Maori name for Pleiades, a cluster of seven stars that rise around this time of year. It is also a time of reflection and planning . . .

thinking on how to make life better and things that you wish for.

During the parliamentary recess I hosted a public meeting in Whanganui on the End of Life Choice Bill, with ACT leader David Seymour, writer and proponent of the bill, and Maggie Barry MP, opponent of the bill and proponent for her Palliative Care Bill (a private member's bill yet to be drawn from the ballot).

My thanks to those who attended - an estimated 250-300 who were able to engage in a respectful and robust exchange of views.

In the past few weeks the country, particularly rural New Zealand and the dairy farming community, has been rocked by Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).

Finally, in the face of too many weeks delay and uncertainty, the Government has announced a plan to eradicate the disease. This provides some measure of certainty, albeit still many uncertainties ahead.

We will all recognise what an agonisingly awaited decision this has been and the implications and ramifications it will have on farmers who have the disease in their herd (and those who don't, not knowing if and when they will).

I attended a meeting with some 200 anxious and perplexed local farmers, families and friends who were addressed by the Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ and Beef+Lamb. In the absence of the Ministry of Primary Industries, they relayed information about the importance of tagging, tracking and recording stock movement.

What was abundantly clear was the locals' concern about the lack of certainty and clarity around disclosure of infected farms and stock.

Such was my disquiet at what appeared to be MPI's priority of nondisclosure as to origin/identification of infected stock and farms, I said I would challenge MPI and minister Damien O'Connor to seek legal opinion and advice from the Privacy Commissioner about the need to maintain non-disclosure against the greater priority of containment of the disease.

It can sometimes seem there is a disconnect between those who hold information and those who need information. We all have ideas on how things "should" be done, but are not always privy to the whole picture.

It's good practice to go to the source of information and in this case check out the MPI website offering information about plans and rural support - http://www.mpi.govt.nz/ June is Men's Health Awareness Month - #menstarttalking - so take the time to have a check-up.

Each year 3000 New Zealand men die from conditions that could have been prevented and this is a tragedy.

Significant health issues for men are concussion (24,000 documented cases a year); depression (one in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime); cancer (prostate, bowel, testicular and lung); heart disease and diabetes.

A half-hour visit to your GP could save your life and that's time and money well spent.

It's also Junk Free June so I'm going to have a look at my chocolate intake.

I have committed to look . . . let's see how consumed I have been about this come my next column.

Ma te Wa . as we welcome Matariki.

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