14 Mar 2012

New head of KVH up for challenge

9:32 pm on 14 March 2012

The new head of Kiwifruit Vine Health, which manages the industry's response to Psa disease, says it is time to take the recovery in a new direction.

Barry O'Neil, who was in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture's biosecurity division, has replaced general manager John Burke.

Mr O'Neil is also a kiwifruit grower at Katikati in the Bay of Plenty.

He led MAF's emergency response to the Rabbit Calicivirus Disease in 1997 and the Waiheke Island foot and mouth disease hoax in 2005. He was also involved with the initial MAF response to Psa.

Mr O'Neil says 14 months on from the discovery of Psa, the management of the disease is heading in a new direction with a more specific biosecurity focus. He says he is looking forward to the challenge of leading that change.

Mr O'Neil says he is aware he may receive some negative feedback from growers, due to his role in biosecurity when Psa entered the country.

He also takes up a new title, as chief executive of Kiwifruit Vine Health.

Latest figures from the organisation show nearly 1100 orchards have Psa, 800 of which are in Te Puke, and only five of which are outside Bay of Plenty.