Is it time for a shake-up at the Ministry for Primary Industries?

North Otago farmer Jane Smith certainly thinks so.

The former Ballance Farm Environment Award winner told Jamie Mackay on The Country recent events such as the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak were a good catalyst for asking if New Zealand has a fit-for-purpose ministry in place.

We needed to look at MPI's purpose, culture and accountability and it was really important we have the correct vision in place, she said.


She said with a new director general coming in in three months we needed to make sure it's a really "versatile vehicle" going forward.

Under the previous government the MPI retreated into being a regulatory department with not a lot of innovation.

"If you're going to be a regulator be a bloody good regulator."

Smith said that as a farmer biosecurity was absolutely paramount.

Listen to the full interview below

She said the primary industry brought in more than $40 billion in receipts.

"What do we get for our reward?"

She said biosecurity funding was a paltry $9 million over four years to increase border security.

MPI should not be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, or even just the band aid at the bottom of the cliff, Smith said.

What is the MPI doing well, Mackay asked Smith.

She said there was now a lot better dialogue with the industries, "unfortunately it took an emergency for that to happen".

Smith said there's plenty of talk about getting into the high biotech space "but we've diversified away from putting any resources into the right type of R&D".

Plus she said there was the added pressures of zero carbon looming "and the industry seems to have rolled over on that ... that's fine as long as we have the tech to do that."

"It feels like we're sitting on a fence, we're not able to market our products as naturally produced resources, but we're also not allowed to use a lot of the biotech resources that are out there and being used worldwide."