Animal welfare issues in the primary sector will be tackled at more of a regional level than from a national focus, farmers heard today.
The recently formed Ministry for Primary Industries is reviewing the systems in place for ensuring compliance with animal welfare legislation across the country.
Dean Baigent, Ministry for Primary Industries director of compliance, told delegates at the annual Federated Farmers conference in Auckland that he wanted to see ministry inspectors working much more closely with vets, stock agents and SPCA officers in their regions.
"We want to move away from a national focus to a regional or district focus," he said.
In the past, a ministry inspector might have sat in a regional call centre waiting to hear from the national office about an animal welfare concern, he said.
Inspectors in each region will, under the new ministry, be better linked in with others in their district who work with animals.
"First and foremost, they will try and grow a network with all the people in their space.
"How we envisage that working is they'll not be lone rangers."
Baigent also said he aimed to have prosecutors in each district, rather than having to call in someone from another part of the country to deal with a case of animal abuse on a farm.
"This will allow us to speed up some of our processes," he said.
He also "put to bed some of the myths" about how MIP would deal with compliance.
"Fishery officers won't be become animal welfare guys."
But he did say that MPI inspectors will be now trained to deal with both fisheries and animal welfare compliance.
Baigent signalled that MIP officers may also be wearing new uniforms at some stage soon.
MPI is a new ministry formed from the merger of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Fisheries and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.
Under New Zealand's Animal Welfare Act 1999, owners and people in charge of animals must ensure the physical, health and behavioural needs of animals are met, and that pain and distress are alleviated.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) administers the Act and leads animal welfare policy and practice in New Zealand. The SPCA is also approved to enforce the Act.
A review of the legislation is being undertaken and a final strategy and proposal for changes will be presented to the Minister of Agriculture later this year.