The Dim-Post

May 28, 2013


Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:38 pm

Via Stuff:

Hundreds of containers of beef and sheep meat remain stranded at ports in China, with the Government insisting it has done all it can to resolve the block.

Last Thursday Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said new export certificates were being personally flown to China by officials from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), and he was optimistic meat would be moving by the end of last week.

This morning he said 245 certifications under the name of the old New Zealand Food Safety Authority had been sent to China, but the meat was still not moving.

“At the end of the day we’re dealing with Chinese officials,” Guy told reporters in Parliament today.

“This was an error by MPI using the wrong form, so the error has been noticed by the Chinese, of course we’re rectifying that and reverting back to the old form so now we wait for the Chinese officials to release those containers.”

We went through all this back in the 1990s. Turns out a lot of those back-office public servants – who National loves to sack by the thousand on the grounds that they don’t actually do anything, approximately one hundred and fifty of whom were let go during the MPI merger – do genuinely do some things, like check export certificates.


  1. And, of course, despite presiding over the downsizing (and concomitant loss of institutional knowledge), Guy has the arrogance to chuck his officials under the bus.

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — May 28, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  2. That is the current definition of “Ministerial responsibility” — the Minister is responsible for shifting blame to the staff who implement his or her policies.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — May 28, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

  3. It’s a fascinating aspect of the behaviour of many humans – probably the vast majority – that we consider what we do not know to be of little value. For some reason, this tendency seems to be worst on the conservative end of the human continuum.

    These are the people who will see no reason to change their behaviour until AFTER disaster has proven they probably should think about it. Climate change is a good example. Fracking is another. Genetically modified organisms are yet another…and so on down the list.

    Prudence just isn’t in their world view……because some unknown, unforeseen circumstance simply can’t matter or they would know all about it.

    So you sack all those parasitic public servants who do…..well…whatever it is they were doing all day….and just assume nothing will happen as a consequence.

    You’d laugh if it wasn’t both predictable and just…..sad.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — May 28, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

  4. mikaerecurtis: Of course he will. He just told them to sack loads of people. He definitely didn’t tell them to sack ‘the wrong ones’. I wouldn’t expect him reflect for a moment that maybe sacking ANY of them might be sacking ‘the wrong ones’….

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — May 28, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

  5. With apologies to Bob Semple, Nathan Guy is basically saying, “I’m responsible but my officials are to blame”.

    Comment by deepred — May 28, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

  6. Yes what with Psa-V, the apples and until yesterday, meat, the NZFSA > MAF > MPI restructure/downsize has proven to be very expensive for industry. Amazing how much they will suck up without making much noise about it, when it’s their team doing the hurting. More amazing, how little (any?) mileage Labour has been making out of this. There are numerous smaller problems not yet in public view and enough redundant former MPI employees to change that, if only they saw a pathway.

    I agree with Steve’s comments. But it is amazing, to mess with the Ministry most linked with the primary sector and the majority of our exports – the one you’d think the Nats would have enough brains to leave alone, or give an easy ride to. But the way Labour is, it’s not even coming back to haunt them, even when they hand out what should be a free hit.

    Comment by Mike — May 28, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

  7. Good to see Danyl giving us the benefit of his expertise in the field of bio security and export certification, however he might find that the positions responsible for most of this kind of work are funded directly by industry through certificate levies, export committee funding etc and therefore have never been on the block for cuts.

    So unfortunately it is just another case of civil service incompetence. Imagine what kind of mess it would have been if these guys hadn’t been to the three day seminar on gender and sexual orientation equality in the workplace.

    Comment by King King — May 29, 2013 @ 9:27 am

  8. So unfortunately it is just another case of civil service incompetence.


    Comment by Joe W — May 29, 2013 @ 9:35 am

  9. Back in the 1990s, the then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries lost fisheries and became the Ministry of Agriculture for a while. Eventually the Ministry of Forestry was diced up and part of it joined MAF, thus restoring a reason to have an ‘F’ in the name. Throughout this time, MAF officials staunchly avoided any rebranding or name changes for the very reason that it would spook or confuse authorities in overseas markets. It seems as though that lesson got lost in the flurry of restructurings since then. Having worked at the former MAF until the 1980s and done a fair bit of contract comms work since, I’d agree there has probably been a big loss of institutional memory along the way – and the current mess is possibly one of the consequences.

    Comment by Phil — May 29, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

  10. The current managerial class loathes concepts such as institutional memory, subject area knowledge and experience. They don’t have any, so why should their staff. Right, Wayne?

    Comment by Judge Holden — May 29, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

  11. @ King King – it’s not a question of who *paid* for those MPI officials; it’s a question of whether the wrong ones were laid off, or too many laid off.

    The whole thing lends credibility to what I thought was a tongue in cheek post by Chris Trotter; claiming the holdup is payback by the Chinese for our continued dalliance with the US free trade deals like TPPA that attempt to place the US in the driving seat in Asia.

    Comment by bob — May 29, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

  12. @bob: I doubt the balance of power in Asia is so fragile that it can be tipped to the US’ favour by the signing of the TPPA. Also, if so, this is a kind of disproportionate response – in NZ’s favour. I mean, we hand the US control of Asia (apparently), and they hold up some meat imports? Hardly throwing their weight around.

    Comment by Hugh — May 29, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

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