Minister Welcomes Study Of Board Accountability

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

The Producer Board Acts Reform Bill, which aims to significantly reduce producer board powers, was today given its second reading in Parliament and referred to the primary production select committee.

Bodies affected by the legislation are the New Zealand Meat Producers Board, the New Zealand Wool Board and the New Zealand Pork Industry Board. The bill also proposes a minor change to the Primary Products Marketing Act.

Because they lessen the boards powers of intervention, the changes are expected to give greater certainty to private sector investors in the meat and wool industries.

Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith said the current legal status of the boards and their extensive powers had been useful in the past for implementing policies of intervention and control.

But Dr Smith said there was industry agreement that such policies were now outdated.

"In fact, not only are they redundant, they may even provide a disincentive for much needed investment in the marketplace by these industries.

"With the reduction in intervention powers, private sector interests can invest and plan with greater certainty that the rules will not arbitrarily be changed.

The minister said he was keen for the select committee to study concerns that the boards would not be accountable enough to farmers under the proposed changes.

"I hope that out of the select committee consultation process we can satisfy ourselves that the accountability procedures are the best possible."

The minister also asked that the committee consider ways of making the composition of the Meat Board more flexible, as cementing it rigidly in law could be problematic.

"It may be possible to arrive at a mechanism for changing the Meat Boards composition that has safeguards to protect the interests of farmers, who fund the board, and to ensure that any changes are consistent with the boards object, function and accountability mechanisms."

Dr Smith said he would be happy to see the select committee drop from the bill the continuation of Meat Board powers to compulsorily grade carcasses.

"I have some serious reservations about this given that carcase grading has only a tenuous relationship to consumers quality of food."