27 Aug 2011

MAF says cuts won't hit frontline operations

5:30 pm on 27 August 2011

The head of the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry says its proposal to shed 241 positions won't affect its frontline biosecurity, fisheries or animal welfare operations.

MAF has confirmed staff cuts as a result of the merger with the Ministry of Fisheries that took effect last month and the earlier transfer of the Food Safety Authority back into MAF.

With 97 vacancies that won't be filled, the current restructuring proposals will create more than 140 redundancies among full- or part-time staff, mostly in Wellington.

The cuts are mostly among corporate, communications and IT staff, where the mergers have created duplication.

Director-general Wayne McNee says although there are cuts in the policy area, MAF's advisory role won't be diminished.

He says there is still a substantial and very good policy team at MAF which will continue to deliver very high quality advice.

Mr McNee says the latest restructuring will save more than $18 million in the 2012-13 financial year.

'Same claims' made in 1995

The Public Service Association is questioning the savings and efficiency gains claimed for the merger.

It says the same claims were made in 1995 when the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was carved up, dozens of employees lost their jobs and services were contracted out.

Mr McNee says however that it's logical to have all the government primary-sector agencies in a single ministry.

He says there will be three weeks of consultation with staff and the final decisions will be announced in October.