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17 January 1997
The Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992 is perceived by a majority of agricultural leaders as being a mess and in need of urgent review, according to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Post Election Brief.
The Post Election Brief outlines policy issues and matters likely to need the attention of the Minister of Agriculture in the next three to six months.
In preparing the brief MAF staff consulted sector leaders representing farmers, farm organisations, bankers, processors, marketers, companies, farm inputs
suppliers, producer boards and local and regional councils.
Participants were asked to present views they wished placed before the incoming Agriculture Minister regardless of the Government’s new make-up. The information
obtained from interviewees is valued because collectively it highlight views, expectations and concerns that are held across the agriculture sector.
Sector leaders said ACC was operationally expensive, bureaucratic and subject to widespread abuse. The system was not meeting the needs of employers, or those suffering work related injury, in terms of value for money.
Leaders felt there was a substantial gap between ACC levies paid and the benefits received by some agricultural businesses. This was leading them to seek Accredited Employer Status, which, if granted, would allow them to be responsible for insuring and managing claims for staff who were off work for up to one year. There was also concern that high ACC levies were being applied to low risk activities in the same agribusiness, such as sales force and administrative staff.
Sector leaders also looked critically at other legislation, such as the Employment Contracts Act, the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the Resource Management Act.
There was widespread concern within the sector over the cost of complying with Acts and associated Regulations introduced by successive Governments over the past decade.
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 was felt to be interpreted in an overly restrictive manner by Department of Labour inspectors, leading to the imposition of unnecessary costs. Several parties stated there was a wide variation in the interpretation of the Act and a lack of practical understanding on the part of OSH personnel, this particularly applying to the horticulture sector.
The Resource Management Act 1991 while good in its intent, imposes costs through the consultation and public submission process; the process involved in seeking consents is too costly and unwieldy; there is a lack of consistency in interpretation between regions; and unacceptable delays resulted in a slowdown of the rate at which resource users could change to meet industry and sector needs.
Sector leaders felt the Commerce Act 1986 was not suited to co-operative structures and export based industries - there were high costs in the process of gaining Commerce Commission approval for sector restructuring that was critical if international competitiveness was to be maintained.
Most parties, on the other hand, saw the Employment Contracts Act as beneficial and felt it should be retained. The meat industry in particular believed the Act had enabled employers to negotiate directly with their staff, and it helped achieve a better understanding of each others position on issues. The Act was seen to have brought increased flexibility, improved labour productivity, easier introduction of new technology, better customer service, and fewer hours lost due to industrial action.
The Post Election Brief covers every function the Ministry of Agriculture is involved in and discusses such issues as trade policy, the Treaty Of Waitangi, food safety, resource management, pest management and science policy.
For further information or a copy of the brief contact:
Jocelyn Brown, MAF Policy,
Phone: (04) 4744100 ext:8454.