'We just want what's fair': Farmers demand MPI compensation after Mycoplasma bovis outbreak
A South Island farming couple who first identified the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in New Zealand are taking legal action against the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Wilma and Aad van Leeuwen claim the ministry's compensation process has left them millions of dollars out of pocket.
The couple first reported the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak on one of their farms two and a half years ago. Since then it's been a daily struggle, and the stress of keeping their heads above water is taking its toll.
"You sort of live and breathe it day-in day-out from when you wake until when you go to bed," says Wilma.
The stress is both emotional and financial, as the couple struggles to pay the bills with little cash flow.
"I mean it can only last so long and then it's all over," says Aad.
Compensation so far has been slow and small.
The van Leewens say they're owed $3 million for animals killed under MPI's eradication programme, with millions of dollars more in claims still to be filed.
"If you come here on the promise that you're going to compensate after you've taken all these animals away, and you don't do it, that's not right. That's basically stealing," says Aad.
Destroying stock isn't the only cost for M. bovis farmers. They claim they've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars gathering information for MPI, along with increased interest and overdraft payments.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a judicial review was filed in the Wellington High Court around extending compensation to farmers.
"MPI has made it clear right through that it considers that professional fees and bank charges should not be recoverable under the statutory scheme," says lawyer Grant Cameron. "We say they're wrong, so we're asking guidance from the High Court."
Affected farmers believe it's simply about addressing what is fair.
"We're not crooks. We're not going to game the system. We just want what's fair, and we want the thing beaten," says south Canterbury farmer Ian Moore.
MPI told Newshub it has already paid out $96.5 million in compensation to farmers affected by M. bovis, but couldn't comment further while the matter is before the courts.