On both sides of the farming fence

Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Wayne McNee recently announced his resignation to become chief executive of Livestock Improvement Corporation. He reflects on his time at MAF and MPI and looks ahead to his new role.

Right now, it is an exciting time to be working in the primary industries - no matter what part of the sector you are in.

Whether you are in the public or private sector, there are plenty of opportunities still untapped.

Over the past decade, primary sector exports have grown by 47 per cent. As a nation, we have a powerful natural advantage in the primary sectors that drives our growth. The primary industries are the engine room of the New Zealand economy; and the wheels, and the chassis, and the brain as well - something which was forgotten for a while in Wellington, but is now firmly back in focus.

More than 70 per cent of New Zealand's merchandise exports come from the primary industries and our biggest opportunity to reach our goal, as a country, of increasing our exports resides with all of us. New Zealand has best-in-class international market access and we have the Asia mega-trend on our side.

It is important for our primary industries to extend our business partnerships both locally and internationally. I saw examples of how we are doing this effectively on the recent trade mission to South America - and saw opportunities to do better.

My 14 years as a state sector chief executive have given me a strong understanding of what the Government can do to support and enable growth in the private sector, as well as what it does to constrain it.

After nearly eight years heading Pharmac, and a stint in the Prime Minister's department, in 2008 I became chief executive of the former Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) before moving in 2010 to become director-general of the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). In 2011, following the merger of MFish, MAF and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, I was appointed director-general of MPI.

MPI has just celebrated its first anniversary, so it is a great time to look back on what we have achieved.

The ministry has made rapid progress in a number of areas with a vision of growing and protecting New Zealand and a goal of doubling our exports by 2025. MPI is still a young ministry, but one with a great heritage and great capability and connections across New Zealand's primary sector communities.

MPI is partnering with the primary industries to enable growth, through initiatives like the Primary Growth Partnership and Sustainable Farming Fund, with the irrigation acceleration fund, with reforms to animal welfare, the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act review and improvements to our biosecurity system, to name but a few.

Our biosecurity, food safety, animal welfare and fisheries management system are world-class and New Zealand is a trusted international brand. We can build on our brand and both the Government and industry are positioning themselves to do just that.

The ministry is looking forward to a big presence as a premier sponsor at Fieldays from June 12 to 15. The event, held at Mystery Creek near Hamilton, is the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere.

With this year's theme of "getting down to business in the global economy" it is a prime opportunity to connect with the farming sector.

While I have enjoyed (most of) my time working in government, I am looking forward to my new role as chief executive of Livestock Improvement Corporation and seeing what we can achieve for New Zealand's farmers.

LIC is a great company, with a proud history and a lot of potential. I look forward to making a real contribution to New Zealand's farming community.

It will also be a chance for me to be closer to the dairy farm my wife and I have just bought a small share in, which is her family farm near Miranda. I'm sure my father-in-law Mike will enjoy getting me out to milk the cows!

LIC chief executive Mark Dewdney retired at the end of May. Acting chief executive David Hemara will remain in the role until Wayne McNee joins LIC on July 29.

- Hamilton News

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