OPINION: I'm looking for thick-skinned sticklers for detail. We all know them. They're someone we work with, or have seen refereeing a footy match, or have given us a ticket.
I think they would be ideal for the new government body I'd like to see.
This new body would employ export inspectors - like compliance inspectors at a regional council.
They would have wide-ranging powers to enter export premises and government departments and thoroughly check everything was in good order - from paperwork to plant cleanliness. Miscreants would be severely dealt with.
They're needed because of a growing list of stuff-ups that are putting at risk our well-earned international reputation for trustworthiness.
The world runs on trust. Let me explain.
In an attempt to conquer my fear of flying, I took the Air New Zealand Flying Without Fear course. One of the arguments that resonated with me was the simple matter of trust.
Did I trust the designers, builders, engineers and pilots of the plane? Not only that, did I trust the education system that produced them and the airline's training programmes?
In New Zealand, our education and training systems are pretty good.
They turn out, among others, scientists, doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters and pilots who we can trust.
I can also vouch for real estate agents, car salespeople and dairy farmers. But then I'm a journalist, one of the least trustworthy, if we believe the surveys.
I'm sure New Zealand rates high on international trustworthiness scales. We are known for being one of the least corrupt countries.
It is a reputation we can thank ourselves and our forbears for, and the politicians we and they have elected.
It is an attitude engendered in us by the people who came here more than 150 years ago determined not to repeat the mistakes of injustice in the countries they came from.
Our trading ability, and hence our economy and our quality of life, relies heavily on this reputation. When we say our food is safe to eat, we are taken at our word.
But that has taken a hit lately. This year has seen some awful stuff-ups.
Residues of a chemical used to reduce excess nitrogen leaching through our soils have been found in milk.
Scientists tell us it is harmless but that has not reassured some markets. In fact, in Sri Lanka it caused a lot of public anger.
We can argue that much of the reaction is encouraged by commercial rivals, but we shouldn't have handed them the ammunition.
The same goes for the recent Fonterra botulism scare. It was a gift for those who wanted to prosper at our expense.
Now, as the inquiries get under way and we learn more about it, the mistakes made are publicised again. And so a picture of incompetence is built.
IT'S not just food safety, but biosecurity, too. Take the finding of a foreign object in palm kernel stockfeed delivered to a Bay of Plenty farm. First, it was said to be from a Malaysian deer or goat, then it was from a New Zealand sheep. Now, we're hearing it could be from a fish!
Four out of five tests say it is a sheep leg, and that is the result we all want to hear. But it's not a good look.
That's not all. China stopped our lamb imports because we had the wrong paperwork. It took high-level talks, some might say grovelling, to unlock the lamb. But did we learn? It appears not. A couple of months later, a South Island meat plant's export certificate was suspended when its labelling was rejected by China.
And most recently, seeds of an invasive grass were scattered on a mid- Canterbury roadside when an importer did not follow instructions to keep them tightly contained.
A common factor has been the Ministry for Primary Industries, but it would be unfair to blame its staff for all these calamities.
In one, the China lamb shut-out, it was found to have made mistakes. But in the grass seeds spill, it was its quarantine inspector at Lyttelton who spotted the culprits - a few specks in a 16.3-tonne cargo, the proverbial needle in a haystack.
However, I'm told the ministry is under stress.
Since it was created from the ministries of Fisheries and Agriculture and Forestry and the Food Safety Authority almost two years ago, job restructuring has seen a lot of specialist expertise and institutional knowledge lost.
There's no denying the ministry's reputation for efficiency has been harmed by recent events. So has Fonterra's, for that matter.
Trust in New Zealand's word has been shaken.
That is why I think a new body should be created. I know the Government, which has cut millions from public service spending, won't want to do it, but we must do something to restore that trust. The people we need are out there - those sticklers for detail.
And if anyone objected to them being too heavy-handed, then we would only have to refer them to the annus horribilis of 2013, and say: "That's when we nearly lost the world's trust."
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