Posts Tagged ‘Damien O’Connor’

PGP review may result in greater focus on soil and water issues

The Primary Growth Partnership may continue under the Labour-led Government but with a greater focus on soil and water issues.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor told AgScience:

“I have indicated there will be a review of PGP.  Millions have been invested across different sectors and of course there is good that will have come from it. But identifying that is not so easy.

“So we’ve got to make sure that wherever taxpayers are spending money across the rural and agricultural sectors, they are getting good value for that money because just as farmers expect to use their money wisely, so does government.

“And we’ve got to make sure that we don’t drop the ball.”

O’Connor said there was a need for a greater understanding of the value of soil and all aspects of its protection and development.

Similarly, with water science “there’s a  hell of a lot for us still  to learn”.

Not enough investment had been put into those areas.

On the role of state grants for research and development, O’Connor said the Government hadn’t committed to any approach, other than to boost the Sustainable Farming Fund, “which we think has been a very successful approach – we like small smart initiatives.”

With the PGP, large amounts of money often had been invested for business-as-usual projects

“We are going to balance those,” O’Connor said.

“Firstly, we will have a review and look at the system .

“I know PGP has improved over time in terms of oversight and accountability, but the question still remains what is the best way to spend taxpayers money for the future of agriculture.”

Without a vision and strategic plan “we’re not quite sure if we are spending that money in the right direction”.



MPI’s honey test results prompt call from Labour for further restructuring

The Labour Party is reported to be calling for the Ministry for Primary Industries to be split again because it’s “too big” and failing industries like the lucrative manuka honey business.

Damien O’Connor, Labour’s spokesman for Primary Industries, said the 2012 merger of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Fisheries and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority was meant to be about efficiency.

But he said the ministry now was “simply too big” to have the expertise required in the highly technical areas of food safety and biosecurity.

His comments (HERE) followed MPI’s deputy director of general regulation and assurance, Bryan Wilson, acknowledging a problem with the testing of manuka honey.

The Government last month released its scientific definition to authenticate New Zealand manuka honey, which is the first step leading to a standard.

This followed claims in a British trade magazine, The Grocer, that consumers were being misled over what they are buying and at vastly inflated prices.

The honey industry earns $242 million in exports a year, about 80 per cent of this from manuka honey.

But some producers say up to 20 per cent of the purest honey – worth about $10 – 20 million – is failing MPI testing.

Radio NZ reported on this issue yesterday (HERE):

Independent industry adviser John Hill said he has had clients whose honey has failed under the proposed standards despite being some of the best in the country.

He said producers had been testing hundreds of samples of the best mānuka honey, worth up to $300 a kilogram, and about 20 percent had failed.

Mr Hill said the significant fail rate had huge implications for mānuka honey producers and he wanted MPI to sort it out as soon as possible.

He said it had already been a bad year for beekeepers, with the weather affecting produce.

Bryan Wilson was intervieweed for the Radio NZ news item.

He said there appeared to be a problem with the laboratory testing methods used, and work was being done to fix it.

“It’s the way in which the testing for DNA is undertaken. There is potentially some interference with some of the chemicals, so we’re working on how that might be fixed and we think we’ve got a solution,” he said.

Mr Wilson said the test was designed to separate mānuka honey from other sorts of honey.

“We are pretty confident in the way we have got that set up. We would expect a level of difference between what our tests show and what the industry’s tests show. That’s why we started this process in the first place.”

Submissions for fresh testing ends on 13 June. Mr Wilson was confident any issues could be fixed at the end of the consultation process.