26 Oct 2017

MPI to be dismantled under new government

5:11 am on 26 October 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries, as it stands, is no more.

An email sent by an MPI manager suggests that if fish dumping could be stopped "we would probably put half of the inshore fleet out of business overnight ..."

Fisheries will have its own minister under the new government Photo: 123RF

The new Labour-led government is dismantling the mega-ministry, splitting it into three parts covering forestry, fisheries and agriculture respectively.

Incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the plan would allow greater focus on each sector.

"We want to see emphasis on forestry as a single entity rather than rolled into a mega industry," she said.

"We've done the same for fisheries and agriculture. Again, an acknowledgement that we see a real need for priority to be placed on each of those areas."

She singled out fisheries, saying it had faced "dysfunction" under MPI's watch.

Greenpeace has repeatedly accused the ministry of being in thrall to the fishing industry and turning a blind eye to illegal activity.

Greenpeace NZ director Russel Norman said he hoped the change in approach would help turn that around.

"Everybody knows that the regulation of fisheries does need special attention."

But Dr Norman, who was a former Green Party co-leader, warned it would be a massive task.

"No one should underestimate the ability of the fishing industry to influence the regulation," he said.

"They've been at it for decades and decades, so they are very well experienced at any attempts to reform it."

Industry body Seafood NZ turned down an interview request, saying it was still waiting for official word on the plans for MPI.

But in a statement, a spokeswoman said a specific focus on fisheries would be "warmly welcomed" by the sector.

"While we are unclear around details of this announcement, having a return to a stand-alone ministry for the seafood industry - if that is what is intended - is great news," the statement said.

The industry generated almost $2bn in export revenue and was a huge employer, it said.

MPI was set up by National in 2012, bringing together the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Food Safety Authority.

Labour MP Stuart Nash will be the new Minister of Fisheries, New Zealand First MP Shane Jones will be the Minister of Forestry and Labour's Damien O'Connor will be responsible for agriculture.

Institute of Forestry president James Treadwell welcomed the news, saying MPI had neglected the forestry sector for too long.

"MPI was naturally concentrating on agriculture - it was the biggest earner - and often forestry took second fiddle to that."

A lot of the forestry experts working within MPI had been left disheartened, he said.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne was cautiously optimistic about the new approach.

"There will be a disruptive time and you hope that projects that are on the go still get to function while everything's being re-compartmentalised.

"But hopefully, with some more direct focus there should be good outcomes out of it."

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