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Making a difference . . . Merlyn Hay receives her certificate from head of Biosecurity New Zealand Roger Smith. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The Oamaru vet who raised the alarm about Mycoplasma bovis has received special acknowledgement at the New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

Merlyn Hay, from Vetlife Oamaru, was the vet overseeing Van Leeuwen Dairy Group cattle when two of its farms near Morven were confirmed with the bacterial disease in July last year.

Having been unable to identify the cause of ill health in cows and calves, Dr Hay alerted the Ministry for Primary Industries. It was the first time M. bovis has been confirmed in New Zealand, although it is prevalent around the world.

Dr Hay spoke at the second public meeting on the outbreak, at the Papakaio Hall on August 2 last year, outlining the process she had been through since finding sick livestock four months earlier.

She said she had “nothing but admiration” for the van Leeuwens and their staff, who had taken exceptional care of their animals.

Now, Dr Hay has been singled out for praise. At the biosecurity awards in Auckland on November 12, she was given a certificate for her contribution to biosecurity excellence.

“Although this acknowledgement sat outside the award categories, due to Dr Hay’s exceptional work we felt it was a fitting occasion to recognise her remarkable contribution,” ministry engagement acting manager Clare Fraser told the Oamaru Mail

Head of Biosecurity New Zealand Roger Smith, in presenting the certificate, said Dr Hay’s response to “a complex and unusual clinical challenge” was “to chase it down through determination, hard work and applied veterinarian science”.

“While we are still in challenging circumstances to deal with Mycoplasma bovis, Dr Hay has helped put us in a stronger position to do just that,” he said.

“The New Zealand Biosecurity Awards celebrate iwi, environmental organisations, science providers, community groups, local, regional, and central government agencies who are working hard to help ensure Aotearoa is safe from pests and diseases.

“These awards are an incredibly important occasion, as they provide a moment of pause to take the time to acknowledge and honour the important achievements happening within our biosecurity system.

“Every New Zealander has a role to play in preventing pests and diseases from getting into New Zealand or helping to stop their spread if they do get here. It takes all of us to protect what we’ve got.”