Animal Welfare Amendment Bill - Committee stage

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

STUART SMITH: It is a pleasure to speak on the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill. I would like to just start by saying that I do not think I can let the member who started out, on the Opposition side, get away with the comments he made about farming. I would like to just point out that farmers do not have a monopoly on idiocy, and I think that you have got to be very careful when you go down that track.

I would like to say, actually, that farmers are reliant on their animals and they live with them every day when they are out working with them. They rely on their productivity. Happy animals are more productive and farmers have a vested interest in their animals being happy and productive, a good financial interest in it. Having been a farmer myself, I know only too well that stock that do really well are very happy, and we have seen lots of evidence of that.
I would like also to congratulate the Minister. I did not have the pleasure of sitting on the Primary Production Committee when this bill started through the process, but I think we have ended up with a really sound bill. It is important that we get a bill that has a good framework that will last through time, because what is acceptable today may not be acceptable in the future. Certainly, what was acceptable in the past is not always acceptable today. To get that bill written in such a way that it will last a long time is really a great skill and I tip my hat to the Minister on that, so thank you.

It is important that the bill is able to be enforced, and enforceability in the bill is really important, and I do take on board what the previous speaker Mojo Mathers said about it coming down to whether there are enough resources there. I am very confident that there are currently and I think that it is easy to point the finger and say that there is not and you always need to throw more money at it. In fact, Government under its Better Public Services programme has shown that Government can actually deliver more for less, and we have seen that right across a number of different ministries. I am sure that that is the case in the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Having that clear enforceability is really very important, but you must have the framework and the legislation, and we actually have that on this side. I congratulate you on that. We must have clarity as well in this legislation, and I am very pleased that it is there and the bill is transparent. That is really important.

We have talked a lot about farming and I think that we must not forget that actually, as the Minister for Primary Industries pointed out, two thirds of households have a pet—at least one. That is a lot of animals when you think about it. Often there is no economic driver to look after those pets necessarily that well and it is important that we have a good framework to enforce that and ensure that those animals get the treatment that they deserve.

Farming is the backbone of New Zealand’s economy. In fact, I think if we took primary production away, the New Zealand economy would virtually disappear. It was talked about earlier that it would be a threat to our exports, I think the threat is not so much that we would not have our export markets; it is actually that the price that we sell our exports at is so important.

We are niche marketers and the people who buy our products at a higher price are buying it on choice. Things like animal welfare are essential to their having confidence in that area. That is where I think it is. It is not necessarily about having our markets closed to us; it is about being able to sell at that higher end. That has been recognised and I know the Minister has a great understanding of this, and it is really important for the future of New Zealand’s agriculture that we aim at that top end. That is where we are going as a country and that is how we will grow our export returns. It is going to be value really over volume in the long term, in a sustainable way, and I think that is very important.

I would like to talk about the Mojo Mathers’ Supplementary Order Paper. I would also like to congratulate her on putting up a Supplementary Order Paper that was well thought out. Unfortunately, it was a bit broad and there were unintended consequences that could have come out of that. The Minister has recognised that and come up with an Supplementary Order Paper that deals with that area, but in a much more concise way, and achieves what the member set out to, but ensures that we do not foot-trip ourselves by getting tangled up in little technicalities further down the line. So I think that is very important. Thank you.