EQUINE industry officials across southern Queensland believe the proposed closure of the State Government’s Animal Disease Surveillance Laboratory (ADSL) at Toowoomba poses a direct risk to disease surveillance and of expertise loss.
They have called on the state Cabinet to urgently reconsider the decision with industry input.
Darling Downs equine specialist veterinarian Dr Celia Dodd launched an online petition this week highlighting concerns over the proposed laboratory closure.
She told Queensland Country Life the lab was an “essential service” to livestock owners across the region.
Under the cost saving measures being enacted by the State Government, three veterinary laboratories at Townsville and Toowoomba will be closed and consolidated to one.
The merged facility will be based at Coopers Plains.
However, the petition calls for the retention the existing Toowoomba laboratory to “continue these services at the existing premises with facilities suitable to the requirements of this vital work.”
Dr Dodd she wanted to see Mr McVeigh tour the ADSL facilities with local specialists to see “first-hand how essential and vital this laboratory is.”
“This laboratory services the beef, dairy, equine, goat, pig, poultry, sheep and other livestock industries of the Darling Downs, Western, Central and Southern Queensland,” the petition states.
“It provides vital frontline protection against diseases that have the potential to decimate these industries with potentially devastating public health, economic and social impacts throughout Queensland and nationally throughout Australia.”
Dr Dodd told Queensland Country Life that disease outbreaks could be missed and biosecurity would be compromised if the closures take place.
“Animal deaths will occur, disease will occur and samples simply won’t be taken because it is just too hard and costly for the primary producers to achieve,” she said.
“Our opinion as private veterinarians is that the government cannot afford to close the ADSL because the cost to Queensland is too great.”
In a letter this month to Agriculture Minister John McVeigh, Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, State Member for Condamine Ray Hopper, and Cambooya veterinarian Dr Max Wilson said the government decision to close the lab contradicted the LNP’s election promise to promote decentralisation of public services and agriculture as among the four pillars of the party’s economic platform.
“This loss of personnel and a regional laboratory leaves us more exposed to imported exotic diseases and zoonosis such as Mad Cow, Hendra, foot and mouth, salmonella and avian influenza,” they wrote.
“Queensland has to be in the front row of disease surveillance for these diseases as we are the closest to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
“Many times samples are submitted to the laboratory on the off chance that an exotic or zoonotic condition might be involved.
“This (detection) will not occur if the primary producer or veterinarian has to wear the cost of getting the samples to Brisbane.
“In my opinion the government would be well advised to make the Toowoomba laboratory the primary laboratory, as it is in the heart of the livestock producing area.”
Equestrian Queensland chairman Peter Toft said he was concerned about the potential expertise losses.
“We need to ensure the integrity of the primary industry on the downs and in regional areas are protected,” he said.
“If the testing has to go to a city lab, the turnaround will be too slow and the cost will prevent a proactive approach.
“It also potentially sends the wrong message that government is not taking these potential threats as seriously as possible.”
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