A partial lifting of the horse movement ban in New South Wales (NSW), Australia may be on the cards with the introduction of a new zoning system.

An agreement has been reached between NSW Government Minister, Ian MacDonald, and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia president, John Messara, that may allow more freedom to move mares to breeding farms in Hunter Valley.

Until now, the movement of all horses had been restricted across the country due to the outbreak of equine influenza.

The move comes as Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, announced that a former High Court judge, Ian Callinan, would have the powers of a royal commissioner in his inquiry into the outbreak.

Mr Callinan will be able to examine documents and summon witnesses to get to the bottom of both how the outbreak started and how it was allowed to spread. It has been speculated that lax hygiene by handlers at the federal government’s Eastern Creek quarantine facility may be to blame.

The disease has had a devastating impact on all horse industries and equestrian sport in the country.

Last week the Australian International three-day-event at Adelaide, which was set to run 9–11 November, was to be postponed. The event plays a crucial role for riders aiming to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Event director Gillian Rolton said: “It’s just too big a risk to run in November. It’s the only Olympic standard competition of this calibre in the southern hemisphere so it’s crucial that we reschedule it.”

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