A Government review into the live export trade will not be released before the election despite calls for it after the capsizing of a ship carrying thousands of cows and two New Zealanders, during a typhoon.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would not pre-empt the outcome of that review or be drawn on whether the trade should be banned.
It comes three days after the Gulf Livestock 1, a container ship carrying 5867 New Zealand cows and 43 crew, is believed to have sank in the East China Sea near Japan after its engine failed during a typhoon.
So far only one person has survived, a Filipino chief officer who said the ship was turned broadside when its engine failed during the extreme weather event and a huge wave knocked it over.
Addressing media in her hometown of Morrinsville on Saturday, Ardern was asked if the tragedy would prompt the banning of live export.
"As a result of the recent loss at sea, or presumed loss at sea of that livestock carrier, the Ministry for Primary Industries has put a temporary hold on live export.
"Those were cattle that were going for breeding purposes into Asia - that has been halted for now while of course investigations are underway as to what has happened in this situation."
The Prime Minister said New Zealand was awaiting further briefing from the Coastguard in Japan regarding the survival of the two New Zealanders.
The Herald understands the pair were stockmen who were based in Australia.
"Overnight [there] was some additional reporting of a rescue made by the Coastguard but as yet we continue to wait for additional information."
A second survivor was plucked from the sea yesterday but the man was unresponsive and later pronounced dead.
Another approaching typhoon was hampering rescue efforts, while hundreds of cow carcasses were floating near the scene of the sinking, west of Amami Oshima Island.
Ardern said she was not directly in contact with the families of the two New Zealanders onboard, who have yet to be named.
"I did seek information as to whether or not they were being supported and I understand they are, and obviously the key for us is making sure they are getting as much information as we can."
Asked if the tragedy would make it harder to begin live export again, Ardern said it was an issue being reviewed before Wednesday's capsizing.
"It was something that actually we already were and are in the middle of undertaking a bit of an assessment of the role of live exports for New Zealand and for the industry in New Zealand.
"So that's something we already had underway before this tragedy. We've obviously put a halt now on live exports and we will continue to complete that work and make that assessment on the role it currently plays in New Zealand.
"I won't at this stage pre-empt the outcome of that work but even before this we were looking closely at the role it plays here."
Yesterday animal rights charity SAFE called for Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor to release the review now, before the general election, instead of after as planned.
But Ardern said that would not happen because the intention was to finish the review.
"Obviously it is a decision that we would want Cabinet to be able to consider and we are in a period now with Parliament having dissolved, makes that just a little bit more difficult.
"There were calls for us to review live exports, and we do intend to finish that."
A buyer for Australasian Global Exports, the Australian-based company that chartered the ship, yesterday told the Herald the money farmers earned from selling heifers to live export was unprecedented, at currently double the rate one would sell for on the domestic market.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Winston Peters yesterday told RNZ a complete halt on cattle exports in the future was not the answer.
"If it was not for livestock exports, this country would have no farming industry at all. The question is that we do in a way that's safe and humane in respect to the animals and the people who do it. In this case we seem to have had a perfect storm."