Vet work stories

Vets working at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) 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 14 years and joined MPI in 2015.

What does your job involve?

Veterinarian Jana Cornes
Jana Cornes

"According to my friend, 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 a few years 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, many years down the track, I still 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."

THINKING ABOUT MOVING TO NEW ZEALAND?

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Brandon Brooks

Brandon is an MPI veterinarian based in Auckland. Originally from Virginia, USA, Brandon has been a vet for over 20 years. He’s been working with MPI since September 2018.

What does your job involve?

Veterinarian Brandon Brooks
Brandon Brooks

"My job varies from day to day. That’s part of the appeal – the constant variety. Part of my job is about verifying organisations and the other part is writing reports, answering queries, and keeping up with ongoing changes.

"Certification is a huge part of our jobs and making sure that we get it right when it comes to product traceability."

What’s the best part of your job?

"I love the flexibility. I am an early morning person and like starting my day at 6am. You get a lot of trust in this role.

"I loved being a vet in a private practice, but I couldn’t do another 20 years. With so many cases, I struggled to not let it weigh on me emotionally. It does take a bit out of you. It’s just the nature of the job, and I admire those that do it.

"It was hard to let it go, but I just needed much better work-life balance. I don’t miss the long days, weekends, and being on call at a clinic.

"There is some lack of awareness about what jobs are available to vets in government. There are a variety of roles for vets. To be honest, when I was in vet school this would not have been the job for me at that point in my life. However, now it’s where I want to be.

"In the future, I want to stay and work for MPI. There are opportunities to go overseas or be seconded for a year and try something else."

What challenges you about your job?

"For me it’s a delicate balance between being a verifier and helping our customers. We want to help them grow and do better whilst protecting the public as well. 

"It’s not necessarily an adversarial role. What we do is encourage our customers to do better and comply. Everyone is different and it’s about finding rapport. It’s a win-win situation if our customers adhere to the regulations."

What was it like coming from overseas?

"I immediately felt like a Kiwi when I came here. I prefer the summer at Christmas now, though it took a while. People are really welcoming here, and I have seen most of the country at this point."

What would you say to someone thinking about joining MPI?

"It’s a great place to work. You are well supported and there is a huge variety of people working here.

"You learn so much about the primary industries and it could be the role you keep for life.

"If you like problem solving, being in charge of your day, and a flexible work schedule then this could be a role for you.

"I think it’s a great ministry to work for and it’s got great leadership, vision, and purpose. It requires some imagination and the ability to think on your feet. In that way there is some parallel to private practice. It’s a very satisfying place to have a career."

Who to contact

If you have questions about vets at MPI, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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