Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor admits a live export ban will be "a blow" for some farmers, but dealing with change is part of the job.
This morning, the Government confirmed plans to ban live animal exports from 2023.
The two-year transitional period would give people time to find "another area of opportunity," O'Connor told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
"There will be emerging opportunities in the primary sector. There has always been change and I think that we're some of the most adaptive farmers and people in the world and that will continue."
However, some primary industry groups were concerned the ban would negatively affect New Zealand's economy.
Federated Farmers said live trade was worth around $250 million in export receipts, and Animal Genetics Trade Association spokesman Dave Hayman said the ban could cost up to half a billion dollars a year.
O'Connor disagreed, saying live exports were worth around $60 million a year on average, and they had only risen to $251 million "in the last 12 months".
"I've acknowledged that for some farmers who have been getting up to twice the amount for their heifers, this will be a blow - but this is not a net loss of $250 million," he said.
"All of those animals will stay within our economy and be grown and processed and perhaps generate more revenue for us at the end of the day."
Animal rights groups raised concerns about conditions on live export ships, after 41 people including, two New Zealanders, died in the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 last year.
"The tragic loss of that boat with [over] 40 people and all the livestock put all our systems under scrutiny and in the spotlight," O'Connor said.
The live export ban was about protecting New Zealand's international reputation as leaders in animal welfare, O'Connor said.
"We are living in a fishbowl and everything we do is subject to wider scrutiny and if we are to sell high value animal protein into the world's most discerning markets where people have to pay more - we're going to have to guarantee high ethical standards of production."
"If we are to claim that we can be the best farmers for the world and that we produce the best food - then we have to be able to back it up."
The main issues with live exports was the length of time the animal spent at sea, and the "unknown" effect confinement on a boat may have, O'Connor said.
"The 1.9 square metres that a 500 kilogram animal gets for three weeks, is a bit a squeeze in my assessment."
"I guess if farmers want to hop on some of these boats and share the journey, they can do that."
Mackay said industry statistics suggested some animals fared better on the boats, with reports of weight gain and a survival rate of 99.5 per cent.
O'Connor said he'd seen these figures, but had also studied conflicting reports.
"There's a bit of he said, she said on this."
Ultimately, the decision was about protecting animals and New Zealand's overseas reputation, O'Connor said.
"All the good work that we're doing on farm, around animal welfare, around environmental management - all of that stuff could be undermined if we end up with a reputation of not caring for our animals."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to Mackay earlier this morning before the announcement.
She said the problem with live exports was the journey, not the destination.
"There are not many countries that engage in live exports that have the length and distance of travel that you do from New Zealand."
The decision to ban live exports was not easy, and had been made after careful consideration of different viewpoints, Ardern said.
"Every call we make we are weighing up issues for our exporters...our farmers and our primary sector. We're weighing up animal welfare issues and our reputation on the world stage as a country that likes to uphold those standards so that we maintain our brand as an exporter."
Although the Gulf Livestock 1 tragedy caused the Government to "reflect on livestock exports generally", it wasn't the only factor, Ardern said.
"This has been a debate for some time. I would have to say that from the feedback I've had [there are] multiple different views amongst the primary sector on this issue."
"Not everyone seems to be of one mind."