The Agriculture Minister has rejected suggestions by an animal rights group for a separate Crown entity to ensure animal welfare laws are adhered to.

Damien O'Connor said there was a National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and a separate ethics committee which provided plenty of independent oversight between them. As well, he said, the Government had set aside millions for improved compliance and enforcement work.

Animal rights group SAFE said unless the Ministry for Primary Industries is stripped of its animal welfare responsibilities, animals would continue to be abused.

The comments followed sentencing in the Whangārei District Court this week of Northland sharemilker Michael Ian Luke who admitted hitting cows with an alkathene pipe and a metal bar.

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The 62-year-old former Mangapai dairy farm manager pleaded guilty to a representative charge under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and was convicted and ordered to pay $3130.

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Luke hit one cow in particular about the legs with a metal pipe so severely that both legs were badly swollen and she struggled to walk.

Video footage of Luke beating the cow was taken by animal lobby group Farmwatch and handed over to MPI, which began an investigation in 2018.

SAFE is angry at what it describes as a "lenient punishment" given to Luke for what it says was a serious breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

"This man repeatedly beat the animals under his care and has walked away with one of the lightest sentences that we've seen in a while. It's a shocking outcome," SAFE chief executive Debra Ashton said.

She said the evidence gathered by Farmwatch, which promoted MPI to prosecute, was deemed inadmissible by the judge.

"If MPI had done their job properly, it wouldn't be left to volunteers to gather evidence of animal abuse.

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"Unless MPI is stripped of their animal welfare responsibilities, animals will continue to be abused and fall through the cracks of the system."

Ashton called on O'Connor to support the establishment of a Crown entity with the sole responsibility of ensuring New Zealand's animal welfare laws were adhered to.

The Agriculture Minister has rejected a call by SAFE for MPI to be stripped of animal welfare responsibilities in light of Michael Luke's sentencing. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The Agriculture Minister has rejected a call by SAFE for MPI to be stripped of animal welfare responsibilities in light of Michael Luke's sentencing. Photo / Michael Cunningham

But the minister said he didn't support such a call, saying the Government in Budget 2019 provided $40.7 million over four years to boost MPI's compliance and enforcement work for food safety, animal welfare and fisheries.

"This money was to ensure MPI's and the SPCA's compliance and enforcement functions can effectively meet increasing demands driven by the implementation of new legislation and increasing animal welfare complaints and referrals."

O'Connor said SPCA got an extra $2m a year for its work ensuring domestic animals were well looked after – a big increase from the $440,000 per annum.