Speech to GIA signing with NZ PorkPrimary Industries
It’s great to be here today to witness the signing of the Government Industry Agreement Deed by the New Zealand Pork Industry.
This is a historic day. It’s the result of the hard work over several years of both industry and government to realise the benefits of working in partnership.
There is a simple but important principle behind the GIA: by working together, we are stronger.
This agreement means we can share our expertise, experience and knowledge to make joint decisions on biosecurity readiness and response.
Those with a direct stake in biosecurity can now be directly involved in decision making and funding.
In May this year, the Kiwifruit industry became the first signatory to the GIA Deed. I’m very pleased to have the pork industry onboard as the first animal sector industry into GIA.
Biosecurity is the responsibility of everyone – including industry, government and the wider community. We all have skin in the game.
So thank you for coming onboard and I look forward to building a stronger relationship, and a stronger biosecurity system.
The next step forward in the GIA process is an Operational Agreement that will detail the readiness and response activities we will jointly focus our efforts on.
I’ve always said that biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister and that won’t be changing.
MPI is beefing up border protection with 125 new quarantine inspectors trained over the last 18 months, and 12 new x-ray machines at our international airports. We also have five new dog detector teams.
This year the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Budget has increased by over $17 million with a focus on strengthening biosecurity and food safety systems.
Last month I also announced a new $65 million biocontainment laboratory will be built at Wallaceville in Wellington. It will replace the existing facility, and play a key role in responding to disease outbreaks, protecting public health and providing international trade assurances about New Zealand’s animal disease status.
Animal Welfare issues
Since I’m here at your annual conference, its worth saying a few words about another important issue that’s been in the news lately.
Like most of you, I was disappointed at the living conditions of pigs shown recently on TVNZ’s Sunday programme.
This was well below the standards that New Zealanders expect, and my office has received many letters on this issue.
As a farmer myself, I know that the farms and practices shown are not typical of the New Zealand pig industry. I know that the vast majority of farmers care for their animals and do a good job of looking after them.
Sadly, in any field there will occasionally be isolated examples that impact on the rest of the industry.
But we should never underestimate the importance of animal welfare, not just to ourselves and our animals, but to markets and consumers.
Clearly there is work to be done. The public needs to be reassured that your industry takes this seriously, is pulling your socks up and acting on any concerns.
I’ve met with MPI and New Zealand Pork soon after this issue arose, and I’m pleased they have agreed to look at how they can work together more effectively on farm inspections.
I’m also pleased to hear you have set aside some time in your conference to discuss animal welfare issues.
Government policies on animal welfare
The Government decided in 2010 that sow stalls may no longer be used from 3 December 2015, and your industry is making good progress toward removing sow stalls.
The writing is on the wall for farrowing crates as well. The Pigs Code of Welfare sends a strong signal that alternatives to farrowing crates need to be found and adopted in the near future.
Research is now underway into alternative methods, looked at by Massey University and funded through the Sustainable Farming Fund.
I believe we need to move quicker on this. I have requested the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to investigate what options are available and make recommendations to me next year.
As part of this work, I expect they will come back with a firm date for when traditional farrowing crates will need to be banned.
I encourage you to see this as an opportunity as well as a challenge, and a chance to position ourselves as world leaders in pig farming.
NAWAC will be consulting with your industry during this process and any decision will need to provide enough of a transition period. Otherwise it could mean farms go out of business and we end up importing more pork from countries where we have no control over animal welfare standards.
Overall, I’m proud of our track record as a Government on animal welfare.
Penalties and sentences in the Animal Welfare Act have increased. The penalty for willful ill-treatment was increased from three to five years imprisonment with a maximum fine of $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for a body corporate.
We also have allocated an additional $8.2 million to double the number of animal welfare inspectors. This enabled MPI to double the number of animal welfare inspectors, and to also provide funding to the SPCA for its enforcement work.
This year we’ve banned the use of blunt force to euthanize bobby calves, except in emergencies, and a shark finning ban is likely to come into effect later this year.
We also have the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill before Parliament, which will make the 1999 Act clearer, more transparent and easier to enforce.
The Bill enables regulations to be made that enable a tiered enforcement scheme of offences, penalties, and infringements
The Bill which was reported back to the House by the Primary Production Select Committee in June 2014 and is awaiting it’s second reading in the House.
I understand that MPI intends to work closely with the pork industry to develop the new regulations following the passing of the Bill.
I want to finish by stressing that while your industry faces challenges, it also has opportunites and a positive future ahead.
With the GIA signing, today is the beginning of a new partnership between your industry and MPI to build a stronger, more effective biosecurity system.
It’s also a key step in building a better relationship between the pork industry and the government.
Thank you again to everyone for their hard work in getting us to this point, and I look forward to the journey ahead.