Asure New Zealand Ltd Office OpeningAssociate Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, the management of ASURE New Zealand Ltd, and special guests.
It gives me great pleasure to be invited here today to officially open your new Christchurch offices, and to acknowledge your position as the first SOE to be established in this city.
Your choice of the garden city of Christchurch is a wise one.
It is not always easy for MPs to argue parochially for their home patch, but I can confidently say I know of no other city in New Zealand that has the attributes Christchurch has. I am aware months of solid work have gone into today's celebrations.
No SOE gets off the ground without a substantial development process and ASURE New Zealand is no exception.
But your establishment board has to be congratulated for making tremendous progress in a very short time frame.
It was only February this year when the division of meat services of MAF Quality Management was announced.
By March, the meat certification and verification functions were consolidated within MAF's food safety section, and barely eight months later ASURE is up and running - as our new independent meat inspection SOE. As the MP for Banks Peninsula, I'm also delighted Christchurch has been chosen as the headquarters for this newly established SOE.
This move sends a strong signal to the large proportion of meat producers who are located in the South Island, that you take South Island interests seriously.
I'm sure you will find Christchurch a more than welcoming location, and I look forward to watching and hearing of your successes at the local level. One of the goals in establishing an SOE for meat inspection services was to start reducing the costs to the productive and rural sectors.
For some time Government has come under pressure from farmer organisations and meat client companies to tackle compliance cost issues.
We all know how detrimental compliance costs can be to an industry, and Government has taken a strong stand on reducing compliance costs across a number of industries in the last 18 months.
From next year, we'll be moving to introduce legislation which will allow the introduction of contestability for meat inspection services.
However, as a Government we have some work to do before that will allow the true evolution of competition.
We have to start by convincing regulatory authorities in the United States and Europe that our export meat will continue to meet their food safety standards as change proceeds.
We're confident we'll get approval for the introduction of contestability from our trading partners, but it will take time.
Anything up to two to three years.
Until approvals are obtained, despite any legislative changes we make next year, ASURE New Zealand will remain the sole provider of meat inspection services in New Zealand. I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the board of ASURE, senior management and staff for working through the employment issues and other issues associated with the transition period so successfully.
You have made this transition a much more positive experience for your 650 employees than might otherwise have been expected.
ASURE has also shown sensitivity to client needs, and there are already encouraging signs that the SOE will be more than adequately positioned to cope with any changes required in the inspection of meat products for export.
So congratulations ASURE New Zealand on your arrival in Christchurch. I am confident you will do well, and will be an asset to this city and the meat industry in the South Island. Tonight I would also like to announce the establishment of the second SOE that has announced its intention to base itself in Christchurch.
The South Island generator - Hydro Power Ltd - has now confirmed that its head office will be based here in Christchurch, instead of in Wellington.
This is fantastic news for our city and for the South Island. The move will ensure the new South Island power generating company remains focused on South Island issues and industry concerns at a local level.
This has to be a good thing for our businesses, for local consumers and for the job market in Christchurch.
I'd go so far as to say the establishment of these two SOEs here proves Christchurch is a great place to do business.
In conclusion, thank you once again for inviting me to speak to you today. I wish you all here at ASURE the very best for your future.