The objectives of the TBfree programme include achieving TB freedom in livestock by 2026 and in possums by 2040, and eradication of TB from all hosts across New Zealand by 2055.

These goals are delivered through a framework of Tuberculosis Management Areas (TMAs) — areas of:

  • common disease patterns
  • geographical features,
  • control history
  • future control needs.

Possum population control management is a major part of the TBfree programme. Our possum population control operations are designed to reduce the number of pests that carry and spread TB to farmed livestock.

Possums are the main source of TB in New Zealand and are the focus of control operations. Eradication of TB is achieved by reducing the possum density to a low and even level (about one possum per 10 hectares) for a period of at least 5 years. This low density means the disease cannot be maintained within possum populations and will subsequently disappear from both possums and other wildlife.

An important aspect of the TBfree programme is surveying wildlife (especially possums, pigs and ferrets) to detect whether TB remains. We do this by trapping possums and other sentinel species, such as pigs and ferrets, carrying out post-mortem examinations and culturing samples for TB. We do this primarily in areas where we believe TB has been eradicated, and don’t expect to find any TB-infected possums or other wildlife as significant possum control effort has already been carried out. Surveys designed to detect TB in possums and other wildlife are used to guide possum control planning as well as to help measure progress towards eradicating TB. A Proof of Freedom (POF) framework is used, with data collected on:

  • possum control history
  • possum population density measures
  • surveys for the presence or absence of TB in possums and other wildlife
  • results from TB tests of any cattle or deer herds in the vicinity.

The data is used to produce a statistical estimate of the probability that the possum population is free of TB. The calculated probability guides any further possum control and wildlife surveillance activities that may be needed in the area.

If the probability of TB freedom in possums is low, further control work is carried out. If the probability of TB freedom is higher, control is replaced by wildlife disease surveys until we can be reasonably sure that TB is no longer present and active possum population management is no longer needed. Over time, TB testing in livestock may also be wound down, with inspection of carcasses at slaughter providing the surveillance and monitoring needed to detect any recurrent or residual infection.

Possum population management under the TB Plan is delivered through a framework of over 100 TMAs. This allows for possum control and wildlife disease surveys to be planned and contracted efficiently. It also provides a local focus for communications and consultation with land occupiers, communities and groups interested in or affected by our operations. Each TMA will have an approximate planned target date for eradication.