Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy admits ministry understaffed on China issues after Trade Minister complains publicly

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy admits ministry understaffed on China issues after Trade Minister complains publicly

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has admitted under questioning in Parliament that the Ministry (MPI) was understaffed in China in the wake of various food safety scares and bureaucratic stumbles in recent months.

The exchange in parliamentary question time between Labour Primary Industries Spokesman Damien O'Connor, Labour Trade Spokesman Phil Goff and Guy came after Trade Minister Tim Groser complained at the China Business Summit in Auckland on Wednesday that his private warnings about a lack of staffing at MPI had gone unheeded.

"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'," Groser was quoted as saying.

"And I've been saying this for a long time in private and now there's no place to hide," Groser said, adding MPI had neither sufficient staff or a satisfactory communications strategy. Here is the Radio NZ report on Groser's comments.

O'Connor asked Guy about Groser's comments and Goff followed up with a supplementary question. MPI cut 200 staff in 2011 and 2012 to save NZ$18 million.

Guy agreed that MPI was understaffed and pointed to his July 2 announcement of two extra staff to be appointed in China before the end of the year.

He cited a 25 point action plan from the Ministry and plans to increase staff numbers in Wellington. MPI announced the plan on August 1 in the wake of a review of MPI's handling of meat certification for exports to China. This followed New Zealand meat exports being stuck on Chinese docks for several weeks in late April and May after a change of food safety labelling was not accepted or understood by Chinese authorities after a breakdown in communications. It was compounded when MPI officials did not inform the minister quickly enough.

The 25 point plan included a doubling MPI's number of market access bureaucrats in Wellington to 16.

"I do agree with Minister Groser's comments that MPI has been under-resourced in China because the growth up there has been beyond everyone's expectations," Guy said of a tripling of New Zealand exports to China over the last five years.

"We're increasing the staff numbers in China. We're beefing up our capability in Wellington from 8 to 16. What we also have is a 25 point action plan from MPI that we're working through. We're also working closely with NZTE and MFAT to make sure China is our number one focus because it is hugely important to us. We're doing a lot!," Guy said.

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9 Comments

Claiming a lack of resources sounds like the provision of cover for issues of competency ranging  from senior MPI personnel through their minister and into cabinet.

Begs the question, why did Groser publicly out Guy? - irretrievably, unresolvable ideological differences of opinion in Cabinet?

My thoughts as well Andrew but you have already provided the link.

I think Guy and Groser have both questioned MPI. Guy for misleading him over market acces and Groser for MPI being both arrogant and incompetent. While I don't have a lot of time for either minister I have sympathy for both their frustrations regards MPI.
 
At a deeper level though I think you are right about Cabinet. It is simply dysfunctional on many levels - leadership, economic policy, competence, arrogance, Christchurch, crony capitalism, infrastructure expediture, resource allocation, etc.

The Mathematics of Chaos
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pKrKdNclYs

WhaT? A lack of staffing?  Under National?  Get away.......

I don't think Tim was referring to the number or importance of their pereception managers.