23 May 2013

Minister blames officials for meat blockade in China

8:11 pm on 23 May 2013

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is blaming his officials for the blockade of New Zealand sheep and beef meat at the Chinese border, but refusing to say if any could be disciplined or sacked.

Nathan Guy says he is disappointed in his officials.

Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ

Export certificates for companies to send meat to China were changed on 1 March this year to recognise that the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is now known as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). It also includes the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Over the past couple of weeks, Chinese customs officials have refused to clear deliveries of New Zealand meat because of confusion over the name change on documentation.

Mr Guy said on Thursday that Chinese authorities have agreed to release consignments under the name of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and they will begin to be processed next week.

In a news conference, the minister repeatedly expressed his disappointment with MPI officials who had provided certification in a format which Chinese inspectors had not approved, causing the delay.

"I'm very disappointed in my officials - issuing export certification is really their core business. And I'm disappointed in how this issue has come to bear. Normally, we have a very strong system and this is very unusual."

However speaking on Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme, Nathan Guy refused to be drawn on whether any disciplinary action will be taken against staff for the blunder.

Mr Guy said that was a matter for MPI director-general Wayne McNee.

"By and large, MPI do fantastic work and we've had an issue here, and I've asked the director-general to get to the bottom of it."