17 Oct 2013

Labour stunned Govt ignoring concerns MPI under-funded

7:33 am on 17 October 2013

The Labour Party is astounded that the Government is ignoring the concerns of one its most senior Ministers, who's warning the Primary Industries Ministry is under-resourced.

Trade Minister Tim Groser told a business summit on China on Wednesday that the ministry was unable to respond effectively to the Fonterra botulism scare and other food safety crises.

Further, Tim Groser said his concerns have been ignored.

"Clearly, we did not have enough resources in MPI and, I know this is a little bit unusual, but whenever I've raised this issue the response is, 'Well, this is an operational matter minister, don't worry your little head about it'."

Mr Groser said he raised his concerns with the ministry's director general.

Labour Party primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor says the Government's reaping what it's sown.

He says Tim Groser has stated the glaringly obvious fact that MPI has been under-resourced, squeezed by the National government and then incapable of doing its expected job in the growing China market.

"It's absolutely shocking to hear that from a senior minister who's admitting major faults with one of our most important government agencies that he's not able to make progress to get the issue fixed and to get the proper resources put in place."

The Government took a scalpel to the Ministry for Primary Industries in 2011 and 2012 - getting more than rid of 200 positions - to save $18 million.

Its director general at the time Wayne McNee said the redesigned ministry would be strongly placed to support the success of the primary sectors.

New Zealand's infant formula exporters estimate the botulism botch up alone may have cost the country more than $100 million in lost business.

And meat trade certification hiccups in China have cost millions more.