Instead of trying to rid New Zealand of unwanted pests, it appears the Ministry for Primary Industries is becoming one itself.

It's emerged this week that new food preparation guidelines mean meat and liver need to be cooked at high temperatures and for longer periods to avoid contamination.

That's raised the ire of chefs who say it'll compromise some of their finer delicacies and has been labelled by one executive chef as "bureaucracy gone mad".

Dan Fraser from the Duke of Marlborough restaurant in the Bay of Islands has been forced to cull the establishment's famous Governor's Burger from the menu after a visit from MPI deemed it didn't meet the new guidelines, as the meat content was cooked to medium-rare.


He said they can now only cook their burgers to a "dry, rubbery well-done", and he's not prepared to compromise. He's also been reported as saying the ministry is telling customers how they need to eat their food.

MPI have said the new rules don't actually ban medium-rare meat but they do stipulate how chefs will, in some cases, have to change the way they cook meat. Apparently there have been a number of deaths from undercooked meat, which has prompted the tightening of regulations. Of course, there is some wriggle room here for the creators of the famous Governor Burger; they can apply to the ministry to prove their burger is safe, but - and here's the nub of the issue - it'll cost them.

The Ministry has since clarified its stance on the matter, saying as long as chefs can show food inspectors they can produce food that is safe to eat, they won't have to change. But something about this whole saga speaks to the overly-bureaucratic, red-tape nightmare that is currently pervading the average New Zealand workplace.

While a degree of rule and regulation is obviously required, the pendulum has swung too far and common sense is being impeded at almost every turn and with alarming regularity.

This sentiment has been echoed rather pithily by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in the wake of the latest act of officiousness from MPI. He's written a letter to the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, telling him he has "far too many petty minded bureaucrats working on new ways to stuff-up the New Zealand economy".

He also cited the example of cheese-maker Biddy Fraser-Davis who complained regulations placed on her produce in 2015 came in at a staggering $250 a kilogram; devouring at least half of the $40,000 revenue she made that year. There are also examples of market stallholders having to shut down as the cost of meeting food safety regulations are simply too steep.

MPI say the regulations are designed for "average places" and are about keeping people safe; the intention isn't to take away choice or cripple business. But under a grilling from ACT leader David Seymour on Tuesday, the Minister for Food Safety, David Bennett, apparently had a tough time explaining exactly how much time and money establishments would have to spend in order to get their rare foods up to the standard required by MPI.

From start to finish the whole thing has been a complete mess and a disastrous look for the ministry, which, it must be said, do a tremendous amount of great work in many different areas.


But at a time when agriculture finds itself behind the eight-ball when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of the masses, it needs a ministry that can champion the cause of the sector, not a fumbling, money-grubbing laughing stock.