Shake-up brings job losses at primary industries ministry

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 04/04/2014

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Staff at the Ministry for Primary Industries have been told about restructuring that will result in job losses in Wellington.

Details were sent to staff this week, and final decisions could "significantly impact" on 16 staff in the ministry's Wellington head office. Their jobs would either cease to exist, or be completely different under the new structure, director-general Martyn Dunne said yesterday. "We will be working closely with staff in those jobs to support them through this process, and I hope to see many of [those] staff appointed to other jobs within MPI."

In addition, 17 new roles would be created.

MPI was created in 2012 from a merger of the previous Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with the Food Safety Authority and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Dunne said the ministry had made "significant progress" since then. "But we are newly formed and there is more [that] we can do to improve our performance."

Structural changes include a new central planning function to boost "situational awareness".

The ministry's ability to manage all food, biosecurity and animal welfare responses would be strengthened, and trade functions moved into one branch.

An inquiry completed last year included 29 recommendations to improve the food safety system.

Reforms in 2011 and 2012 resulted in more than 200 positions being axed in an attempt to save $18 million.

Labour primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor said uncertainty over the reshuffle had left staff unsettled and morale low. "It is not using the expertise and experience of key people."

Lapses in the areas of biosecurity and safety were inevitable, he said.

A male Queensland fruit fly was caught in a surveillance trap in Whangarei this week, after a find in January. "While it's too early to say what caused this incursion, the fact is that is the second in two months."

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said Dunne was responsible for all staffing matters. "I was given a broad overview of the changes, and advised that overall MPI staff numbers will increase."

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