Research should remain at forefront of ministry re-structure

14 Nov 2017

MPI sign

The Government is set to restructure the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), creating separate Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, with horticulture coming under the umbrella of Agriculture. Biosecurity and Food Safety are also tagged as separate portfolios.

This means that MPI’s most recently released annual report will be its last. In that report, there are seven priority areas identified: smart regulation, operational excellence, international access, provenance and traceability, precision production and investment, enduring relationships, and integrated information, insight and knowledge. 

Those priorities can still be applied across all the new portfolios, and they are the result of a concerted effort to make MPI more efficient, and more responsive to industries’ needs. What will be required going forward is careful co-ordination between the three new Ministries to make sure that those roles that overlap across the entire primary sector are served effectively and efficiently.

One area where the entire primary sector needs continued focus on is funding for research and development. Under MPI there have been two funds established to fund R&D: these are the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP), and the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF). The amount of Government funding totalled $284 million, a significant investment, with both funds requiring industry funding and staff time. With the PGP fund, a partnership is created between industry and Government to ensure that each project’s business-led, market-driven outcomes are met. The PGP enables “important information and capability sharing across the primary industries”, and recognises that “the sum of the benefits of PGP programmes working together is greater than if each programme worked in isolation.” 

The SFF “supports community-driven projects aimed at improving the sustainability of the agriculture, horticulture, forestry, aquaculture, and related sectors, and the improved management of New Zealand’s natural resources”. They are two sides of the same coin.

The results being produced by both the PGP’s and SFF’s projects are lifting industry performance, and improving all aspects of sustainability. I believe that it is important for these funds to continue in much the same form as they are now and, if possible, be enhanced under the new structure.

- Mike Chapman, CEO