Cow disease 'could cost New Zealand, much, much more' than thought - PM

Mycroplasma bovis, the cow disease spreading up the country, "could cost New Zealand, much, much more" than first anticipated, the Prime Minister said today. 

Jacinda Ardern is in the Waikato to see the spread of the cow disease firsthand. Source: 1 NEWS

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Mycoplasma bovis can cause untreatable mastitis in cows, severe pneumonia for 30 per cent of calves, swollen joints and severe arthritis. It does not infect humans or pose a food risk, but can be spread through close contact between cattle or on contaminated equipment.

Speaking from Waikato, Jacinda Ardern told media the government had been trying to tackle Mycroplasma bovis "for some months". 

"Hearing that it's come into the Waikato was another blow." 

"Over the next seven days, we are looking, based on technical advice, based on feedback from the industry, around the next steps."

The Government were continuing to pursue eradication, with money set aside from the Government for the culling programme was $85 million, "but that's a starting point". 

"We fully acknowledge, in the wake of the Budget, this could cost New Zealand, much, much more."

Industry had agreed to jointly fund the issue, Ms Ardern said. 

She said it is thought there are 38 farms currently, potentially 70 overall, that have Mycroplasma bovis. 

Minister of Biosecurity Damien O'Connor said there is an investigation underway as to how the disease arrived in the country.

He said the disease may have been underestimated in the beginning.

"In hindsight, perhaps mistakes may have been made, in the end, this is a unique challenge, we are doing the very best we can."

On March 10, Head of Biosecurity New Zealand and chief operations officer Roger Smith spoke to a Select Committee briefing into Mycoplasma bovis, and said the spread "has gone totally above all expectations".