NAIT RFID tags in foreground, milking shed in background: penalties may increase for NAIT non-compliance

The National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme is a system which links people, property and livestock. It was developed to identify and trace livestock (cattle and deer) within New Zealand, in order to manage biosecurity incursions such as disease outbreaks, and improve food traceability and consumer confidence in our food products.

There are growing expectations from importing countries for better product source information. This means a robust traceability system is vital for retaining access to international export markets. The NAIT scheme facilitates tracking and isolating disease outbreaks so that trade may resume faster and with less economic disruption.

The Mycoplasma bovis outbreak from 2017-2018 highlighted shortcomings in the NAIT scheme. Although NAIT accounts are a legal obligation for PICAs (Person In Charge of Animals), non-compliance issues surrounding the scheme resulted in information gaps in livestock data. These gaps had to be filled by MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) officials using other data sources, which delayed gaining control over the M. bovis outbreak.

In response to the lessons learnt from M. bovis, as well as the results of a NAIT Review from 2016-2018, the Government has proposed law changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracing Act 2012 and associated regulations, including incentives for complying with the NAIT scheme.

The proposed changes will:

  • align penalties with other Acts to reflect the seriousness of non-compliance
  • tighten rules for handling un-tagged animals
  • improve the use of data
  • make changes to the performance framework of NAIT Ltd, the organisation running NAIT

"When there is wilful non-compliance with the NAIT scheme, the entire sector is put at risk. This is unacceptable and I know MPI is focusing on holding those people to account," said Damien O'Connor, Minister of Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Safety, who announced the proposed changes earlier this year.

The current penalty maximums for most prosecutable offences are $10,000 (or $1,000 per animal) for individuals, and $20,000 (or $2,000 per animal) for body corporates. However a discussion paper proposes penalties be aligned with those in the Biosecurity Act and Animal Products Act, with farms potentially facing a maximum penalty of $100,000, and corporates $200,000.

Explaining the decision to increase penalties 10-fold, MPI said the current maximums equated to punishment for 10 non-compliant animals, when the average dairy herd was around 400 animals. "For a large-scale farming business, this is a relatively small cost and does not act as a disincentive to offend," MPI said.

The following three NAIT account requirements link person(s), location(s) and animal(s), for identifying livestock and their movements from birth to death/ live export:

  1. If you are a Person In Charge of NAIT Animals, you must register with NAIT as a PICA - even if you have only one animal

  2. As a PICA you must also register all locations you manage where NAIT animals are kept

  3. All cattle and deer must be tagged with a NAIT-approved RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tag, then registered in the NAIT online system within 7 days of being tagged (or before their first off-farm movement, whichever comes first). Animals must be tagged and registered within 6 months of birth, or before they are moved from the NAIT location (whichever occurs first).

When livestock is moved from one NAIT location to another in a sale transaction, either the seller or purchaser must record the movement in their NAIT account. The movement must then be confirmed by the sender/receiver within 48 hours following the day of the movement.

For more information on NAIT visit NAIT Limited is a subsidiary of OSPRI New Zealand Limited.