Vet work stories

Vets working at the Ministry for Primary Industries talk about their careers and what they enjoy about their jobs.

Jana Cornes

Jana Cornes is an MPI vet, working in Southland with the Verification Services team at a meat works. Originally from South Africa, she's been working as a vet for 11 years and joined MPI in 2015.

What does your job involve?

Veterinarian Jana Cornes
Jana Cornes

"According to my husband, who had experience at freezing works, 'the vet just sits in the office all day, and supervises processing for about 5 minutes.' Sweet job, bro…

"I’ve officially corrected him and adjusted his view on what we do!

"As the vet on site, I ensure that all stock transported to the works are fit for transport – healthy, good body condition, and have no evidence of obvious disease or defects.

"Once the animals are on site, I ensure acceptable animal handling, and most importantly humane slaughter. This is really important to me. Animal welfare is just as important in this industry as it is in general practice – maybe even more so.

"I know that on site I can confirm all animals are slaughtered as calmly, stress-free, and pain-free as possible. This is how I maintain my oath as a veterinarian to be an advocate for animals."

What's the best part of your job?

"Without it sounding like a terrible cliché, I can say I have found my niche. I love my job and am grateful for the opportunities MPI has provided. There is a future as a vet for me, and that future is with MPI."

What's it like being part of the MPI team?

"It is said that time flies when you’re having fun, and I’d agree. It feels like only yesterday when I was preparing for my job interview. But that was over a year ago.

"The support and resources given to us in our first 6 weeks, and then the 6 to 18 months thereafter was immeasurable. Even now 2 years down the track, I feel supported and valued.

"MPI invests in their staff. They are willing to provide the time, finances, and resources to make you a better vet, auditor, leader and in my case, even a better person than I would have ever imagined."

Why might a vet choose to work at MPI?

"I’d say that MPI offers a challenging alternative to the traditional pathway of being a practice vet. I spent 10 years looking after companion animals, and that can create a level of compassion fatigue. This has given me new horizons and new challenges.

"Being part of MPI's Verification Services team requires commitment and some sacrifice, and you need to be willing to give back, but you will receive so much more in return."

What was it like coming in from overseas?

"I had no experience with any New Zealand government organisation, let alone the meat industry, so I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. I felt a bit daunted to be working for a large government institution and dealing with livestock.

"MPI’s introductory training programme was comprehensive and thorough. It was a great opportunity to meet the other new vet recruits from around the country, and those new to New Zealand.

"MPI has developed a 'Welcome Pack' for immigrants to ensure the transition to Kiwi life is as smooth as practicable. This covers day-to-day info such as banking, buying a car, phones and internet, finding a home, and healthcare, amongst others."


Not sure whether to make the move to New Zealand? Find out what it's like, where to find support, and what your employment rights are.

William Halliday

William Halliday is an MPI vet based in Gisborne. He is employed at a meat works but is also an on-farm verifier.

What does your job involve?

Veterinarian William Halliday
William Halliday

"Firstly, monitoring and managing animal welfare, plant inspection, and certification for export.

"But there's a lot more to it than that. I'm a specialist on-farm verifier, meaning that I visit farms and audit their residue recording systems, traceability, and animal welfare.

"I'm also a member of the Exotic Disease Awareness Group within MPI Verification Services, and I'm an adviser for the 2017 review of the Painful Husbandry Procedures Code of Welfare.

"It's all focused around helping maintain New Zealand's reputation for producing world-class animal products under very stringent animal welfare requirements."

What's the best part of your job?

"I'm loving the change, both for professional and personal lifestyle reasons.

"Before joining MPI, I had a perception that being a 'works vet' would be a dead-end, boring job where you look at carcases all day. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"So many doors have opened for me since coming into this job. Being part of a national organisation that has a global focus is giving me great professional development opportunities and new perspectives.

"It's satisfying to know you are playing a vital role in our economy. I'm in the frontline, protecting animals, protecting consumers, maintaining the reputation of our exports and helping safeguard the jobs of New Zealanders."

What's it like being part of the MPI team?

"MPI is the largest employer of veterinarians in the country and our skills are in demand across the organisation.

"Veterinary graduates go into management, overseas trade, technical roles, live animal importation, sector specialist roles, animal welfare, and biosecurity.

"It's a fantastic feeling to belong to such a highly trained, supportive team of like-minded people working together toward a common goal."

What about life outside work?

"I've never had work-life balance quite like this. I've got more time for home life and hobbies than ever before, thanks to regularly scheduled work hours and no on-call work.

"Living in Gisborne is great. When I moved here my plan was to stay for 3 years – 5 maximum. Now, 7 years later, I have a wife, house, a woodworking workshop, and we enjoy the benefits of rural life, a 15-minute drive from the CBD, beaches, and airport. There is so much to offer in regions like Gisborne that I couldn't imagine ever living in a large city."

What would you say to someone thinking about joining MPI?

"Go for it. Since making the change I haven't looked back. I am truly an MPI convert – and I encourage any vets out there who are looking for a new challenge to consider MPI. If you're anything like me, then you'll be blown away by the opportunities available."

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