Mycoplasma bovis reaching the top of the South Island is a matter of if, not when, dairy and beef farmers say.
More than 100 farmers and industry representatives turned out in Nelson today to a Ministry for Primary Industries national roadshow, and it was clear emotions were running high.
Three properties in Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough have been issued with a notice of direction by MPI, meaning either stock from an infected property has been moved there or there is believed to be some risk in moving stock off the property.
The farms will be tested and monitored closely, and stock movements will be only possible with a special permit.
Takaka farmer Steve Woods said even though there were no confirmed cases in the area, everyone was worried.
"It will get here. New Zealand's a small place and stock gets moved around," he said.
Read more about Mycoplasma bovis:
Dairy NZ data shows just under 500 dairy farm owners and operators in Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough and the West Coast add more than $300 million to the regional economy annually through milk production.
Rural Support Trust's Nelson regional coordinator Barbara Stuart said they had a chance to keep the disease at bay but it would take some effort.
"There are some incidences of cautionary control happening in the region, and we're fortunate that we're only lightly affected at this point in time, but as a farming community we need to work together to get through this with the least impact," Mrs Stuart said.
The latest figures from MPI showed there were 42 infected properties nationwide, with a total of 53 farms affected since the outbreak began.
The government and farming industry have agreed that an attempt will be made to eradicate the bacterial disease which has been found on farms in the central North Island and in Canterbury, Southland and Otago.
Mr Woods said that despite some finger pointing, farmers were not doing enough to prevent and contain the disease, they are doing the best they can with the tools they have.
"NAIT's very flawed. There are some big holes in it so it's harsh blaming farmers when the system itself is not very good."
Farmers have been criticised for not adhering to the national animal identification and tracing system or NAIT.
MPI's response incident controller Catherine Duthie said responsibility for the containment and management of the disease rested as much with farmers as authorities, and notification was paramount.
"If people don't notify us and practise continues as normal, this disease will spread throughout New Zealand, and then all the effort we've put in - all the people who have lost herds, all the people who have been put under restrictions and have had their lives severely affected, that will be for nothing," Dr Duthie said.
Judith Rowe, who with her husband owns one of the farms under a notice of direction, said while they had tried to do everything to the letter, the information from authorities had been confusing.
"The paperwork we've received indicates there could be issues with deer, with sheep, with other animals on the farm...with feral animals even. You're telling us today that it's not going to go across species.
"There's so much conflicting information. It changes every day," Mrs Rowe said.
Officials are now in Greymouth for another public meeting as part of the roadshow.