Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Foot and Mouth Disease Threat

Hopefully, today's event on Waiheke Island is a hoax. Even so, this Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) hoax will already have direct and indirect costs of millions of dollars. Hundred's of people will have been diverted from usual work activities to respond to this hoax from a number of different agencies, and many hours will be required to determine if this is a hoax or a very real threat.

The person/people that have done this are fucking idiots. If/when they get caught, they will have hopefully have some significant legislation thrown at them, including the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms act and Terrorism Supression act. Yes, this threat is defined as terrorism.

From the Terrorism Supression Act...

  • Section 5(2)b - to unduly compel or to force a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act (a request to change the tax system would fit the bill)
  • Section 5(3)c - destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage, if likely to result in 1 or more outcomes specified in paragraphs (a), (b), and (d) (again FMD fits the bill)
  • Section 5(3)e - introduction or release of a disease-bearing organism, if likely to devastate the national economy of a country (FMD again...)

The Reserve Bank has a research report available that outlines the impact of an FMD outbreak in New Zealand. The scenario utilised in the report suggest that the overall impact on New Zealand over two years is a reducation in GDP of approximately $10 BILLION, and an export reduction of just over $5 BILLION. Big numbers.

The message being played to the public right now is probably playing down terrorism because they expect it is a hoax. If the release is confirmed, FMD certainly has the potential to be covered under our terrorism legislation.

Right, have just returned from tea. It seems that MAF ran a couple of FMD exercises through March and April 2005 - Exercise Taurus.

If it is a hoax, then the idiots that performed the hoax will get a very sharp shock as to how much trouble they have caused.

What if it isn't a hoax?

If it is not a hoax, we have a big problem. A naturally occuring release of FMD should not be too much of an issue as it should be able to be easily managed as it would likely be confined to one location. The intentional release is much more problematic. Why? An intentional release of FMD, if proven, implies some level of intelligence and planning. A release on Waiheke Island makes sense - release it on a relatively self-contained island that is easily isolated. It will take a few days for all the animals on the island to be tested and prove that they test negative to FMD. There is some risk of animals being moved off island - the farmer was interviewed on National Radio between 1730 and 1800 this evening and said they moved some animals off the island last week.

Now, if an animal tests positive on Waiheke Island, we know that they have the capability to deliver FMD to livestock. This is a concern because it could then be delivered potentially anywhere in the country. One of the talking heads on the Seven O'clock new gossip shows said that if we had an FMD outbreak in the North Island, then the South Island would still be able to trade. Natural outbreaks wouldn't tend to jump islands too easily. However, a malicious someone with a bit of planning could, if they are capable of delivering FMD, deliver FMD to multiple locations on both islands if demands are not met. That would likely shut down the entire country.

Some references to get you started: -

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