Rights: The University of Waikato Published 16 March 2010, Updated 13 March 2018 Download

Tim Hale discusses running the farm at Ruakura and the regulations that must be met.

Questions to consider
Why do transgenic cows need to be contained?
What legislation stipulates the regulations that Tim needs to adhere to?

2018 update: Tim is required to produce an annual report for the Environmental Protection Authority. Annual audits are carried out by the Ministry for Primary Industries (formerly MAF). Audits from 2011-2017 confirm and verify compliance.

One of the things I was asked to do when I was first employed by AgResearch was to try and operate the facility as near as possible as if it was a conventional farm, given the limitations of the research activities. In terms of the daily operation, cows are out on pasture, they normally get a daily break of feed and then they spend their time out in the paddocks enjoying the sunshine or the rain, whichever nature happens to be providing on the day.

The reason transgenic or genetically modified organisms in New Zealand need to be contained is because they are classed as a new organism, so they are foreign to New Zealand. And we have to have a facility that meets a MAF standard, which is the containment standard for the field testing of animals – and that enables you to do outside farm work – and for cows, we have to have double 2-metre high fences. The fences need to be electronically alarmed on the interior to tell us if the animals are trying to escape. It’s one step down from a quarantine facility, so people can come and go from the facility, given the restrictions, as visitors, but they don't need to change their clothes or their shoes or their boots, because its focused on keeping the animals or the new organism in.

New Zealand’s probably one of the stricter regulatory environments worldwide for this type of work. The facility we've got here is the only one of its kind in New Zealand.