Govt (through the PGF) poured $3.79m into a wine research centre but it has torpodoed the businesses of livestock shippers

Buzz from the Beehive

While the PM was pumping up the prospects of wine producers – and, presumably, their potential for export growth – Trade Minister Damien O’Connor was scuttling shipments of livestock by sea.

Jacinda Ardern has officially opened the New Zealand Wine Centre in Blenheim, saying investments like these give us cause for optimism for the future.

Speaking as Minister of Agriculture, O’Connor was thinking of our future too when he said the passage of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill (which ends the export of livestock by sea)

“… future-proofs our economic security amid increasing consumer scrutiny across the board on production practices.” 

In other news from the Beehive, our hard-working Ministers tell us they have…

  • Fortified the Court Martial Appeal Court

Attorney-General David Parker announced the appointment of Colonel Craig Ruane, Commander Robyn Loversidge, and James Wilding KC as Judges of the Court Martial Appeal Court.

  • Better protected migrant workers from exploitation

Or rather, the Government intends to do that after introducing the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill. The Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, says this is designed to protect migrant workers from exploitation.

The Bill will introduce changes resulting from the Government’s Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Review completed in 2020, including establishing an infringement regime.

Livestock are land-bound (but can they take flight?) 

On the matter of farm animals being barred from taking a cruise to new (but not necessarily greener) pastures, Damien O’Connor said the passing of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill will protect New Zealand’s reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards.

Exports of livestock by sea will stop on 30 April 2023.

Whether animal welfare or the income from food and fibre exports has been the primary consideration is open to question.

The Government started a review of the livestock export trade in 2019 in response to concerns the trade could be a risk to New Zealand’s reputation.

“The objective of that review was to provide New Zealanders an opportunity to reflect on how we can improve the welfare of livestock being exported,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Our primary sector exports hit a record $53 billion last year, delivering us economic security. That result is built on our hard-earned reputation and this is something we want to protect.”

And then came a ministerial mention of the welfare of the livestock.

“New Zealand’s remoteness means animals are at sea for extended periods, heightening their susceptibility to heat stress and other welfare-associated risks.

“Those involved in the trade have made improvements over recent years, but despite any regulatory measures we could put in place, the voyage times and the journey through the tropics to the northern hemisphere markets will always impose challenges,” Damien O’Connor said. 

Damien O’Connor said the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 highlighted the real risks.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee supported the ban.

But Point of Order notes O’Connor’s acknowledgement that

“There are different opinions on its long-term value among farmers, how it effects New Zealand’s commitment to animal welfare, and our image in the eyes of international consumers.”

The economic impact for the nation seems likely to be negligible – but (O’Connor agrees) it won’t be negligible for the businesses that are being nobbled.

“The impacts on export flow will be small in the context of total primary sector exports. Live exports by sea represented approximately 0.6 percent of primary sector exports last year.

“However, I do acknowledge the small number who are directly affected by these changes. The two-year transition period has allowed those impacted by the ban sufficient time to adjust their business models and supply chains to account for the removal of the trade.”

But O’Connor said NZ’s commitment to high standards had already shown its value where animal welfare discussions have been brought up in Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The new legislation

“…protects the reputation of not just our farmers now but, the farmers of the future who want to commit to livestock farming assured that we are the best managers of animal welfare and producers of ethical animal protein for the world,” Damien O’Connor said.

ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron challenged this, saying Labour has produced yet another headache for New Zealand farmers with its vote to ban livestock exports from April next year.

He claimed this had been done contrary to official advice, referring the public to the Regulatory Impact Statement from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

“Acknowledging this advice from MPI officials, alongside the Mike Heron QC report and submissions to Select Committee, it was obvious the best course of action to ensure animal welfare standards were upheld and this revenue wasn’t lost was to continue the trade under an improved regulatory ‘Gold Standard’.”

Fillip for wine growers 

The opening of the New Zealand Wine Centre by the PM was announced not from her office but by Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash.

Funding of $3.79 million for the Marlborough Research Centre to build a national wine centre was announced in 2020, one of the first substantial investments in Marlborough from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

“Like many a fine wine, our viticulture and winemaking industries continue to grow economically over time and are now one of our country’s biggest export earners,” Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said.

“Currently bringing in nearly $2 billion a year, these exports will only continue to grow as our new FTAs with the UK and EU come into force, providing even greater economic security to New Zealanders.

The New Zealand Wine Centre will help wine producers stay ahead of global trends in wine by developing new products and helping to tackle issues such as the impact of climate change on the sector.

Nash said the Government is also supporting the viticulture sector under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE) by creating 3,000 additional places and providing workforce relief to the wine sector.

At the opening, a variation to Marlborough Research Centre’s existing funding agreement was announced, reallocating $770,000 of the existing $3.79 million investment at their request towards the construction and development of a new state-of-the-art Experimental Future Vineyard.

Latest from the Beehive

29 SEPTEMBER 2022

Govt invests in New Zealand’s wine future

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has officially opened New Zealand Wine Centre–Te Pokapū Wāina o Aotearoa in Blenheim today, saying that investments like these give us cause for optimism for the future.

Appointment of Judges of the Court Martial Appeal Court

Attorney-General David Parker today announced the appointment of Colonel Craig Ruane, Commander Robyn Loversidge, and James Wilding KC as Judges of the Court Martial Appeal Court.

Government strengthens measures to combat migrant worker exploitation

The Government has today introduced the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill designed to protect migrant workers from exploitation, says Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

28 SEPTEMBER 2022

Livestock exports by sea to cease

The passing of a Bill today to end the export of livestock by sea will protect New Zealand’s reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said.

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