Plan Would Allow Mare Movement in Hunter Valley

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia announced Sept. 13 a plan to establish a zone in New South Wales allowing mares to travel there, be bred and stay until the equine influenza crisis is over.

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia seems to have enormous clout. Its members certainly have enormous pockets, and that -- combined with the fact the proposal the group just sent to the government makes tremendous sense to many -- could see TBA  pull off a miracle.

The organization wants to establish a zone in the heart of the Hunter Valley that would allow mares to travel there, be bred and stay until the equine influenza crisis is over. TBA publicly announced the plan Sept. 13, to major applause.

The area, to be called the "purple zone" in the Hunter Valley (to “allow horse movement and the subsequent opening of the 2007 breeding season for walk-on mares to be served by stallions already in the Hunter”) will be presented to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries on Sept. 17.

Once mares enter the purple zone, they would not be able to leave “until an all-clear is given on the equine influenza situation," according to the plan.

After a Sept. 13 meeting with NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald, TBA president John Messara confirmed having obtained basic agreement to the plan.  He said there would be further discussions “on compliance aspects to reassure other jurisdictions.”

The plan will go to a technical committee this week.  "All going well, the final plan will be presented for approval" Sept. 17, he said.

Messara has come out swinging at what some consider the government's head-in-the-sand refusal to approve vaccination.

"If (EI) doesn't ravage us this time, it will in a year or two or three. It will come again because human error in these days of international travel and the global horse economy will mean that at some stage in the future it will happen again," Messara said. "We need to vaccinate in NSW right now."

Messara said he fears the virus will grow in strength and mutate, coming back next year even deadlier.

“It would be preferable to vaccinate across the whole of Australia, but our view in NSW is if the other states don't want to do it, we (NSW) should vaccinate ourselves so we can have freedom of movement within our state and conduct racing in the normal way," he said.

"If other states don't want to (vaccinate), then that's very unfortunate. We'd rather other states be in (a vaccination program), as sooner or later they will understand how devastating this disease can be. We shouldn't be playing Russian roulette with the flu."