The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has introduced new requirements for the safe transport of livestock by sea.
They follow an independent review into the animal welfare assurances MPI receives from exporters, led by Mike Heron QC and supported by Rear Admiral Tony Parr (retired). The review was launched after the tragic loss of Gulf Livestock 1 in early September.
MPI Director-General Ray Smith says it will introduce several additional requirements for the export of livestock until the incoming government can make decisions about a wider policy review of the trade.
“We’ve moved quickly following the Heron review to ensure no serious animal welfare issue for the 24,000 cows in pre-export quarantine, which would likely have to be slaughtered if interim measures weren’t put in place.
“We want to ensure they are moved safely. It’s important to note New Zealand does not export animals for slaughter, but as breeding stock.”
Mr Smith says the Heron review found New Zealand has robust checks and balances in place to ensure the welfare of livestock transported by sea, but MPI can strengthen parts of the Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC) process.
“We will do that because we’re committed to ensuring crew and animals on livestock export boats are safe,” says Mr Smith.
Cabinet introduced an absolute prohibition on livestock shipments until October 23 and a conditional prohibition from October 24 to November 30.
Mr Smith says immediate changes will apply for the conditional prohibition period. They include:
- focused maritime inspection of livestock carrier ships entering New Zealand to transport livestock by Maritime New Zealand as an additional safeguard
- restricting stocking density on vessels to 90 percent of current limits to match new Australian standards
- increased requirements for voyage reporting, including daily veterinary reports during voyages
- increased minimum fodder requirements that ensure at least 20 per cent of feed is available for unplanned delays during the voyage.
Mr Smith says MPI is considering longer-term changes suggested by the reviewers, such as requiring more information in Animal Welfare Export Certificate applications and reviewing current rules, guidance, and regulations.
“Advice will be provided soon to the incoming government on the wider policy review, which started in 2019, and the independent reviewers’ report will help inform that work. Included in the advice will be further consideration of lower stock density rates for shipments,” Mr Smith says.
Mike Heron QC says the export of livestock is a complex international undertaking involving farmers, exporters, vessel owners, trading partners, and others.
“Our review found that while the system is robust, there are changes that can be made now to boost the assurances MPI receives.
“I want to thank all those who took part in the review from those involved in the exports, to vets and animal welfare groups. The review showed very clearly that everyone involved is committed to the welfare of the people and animals.”
Rear Admiral Tony Parr (retired) says livestock vessels operate according to international rules and certification, but additional New Zealand-based checks by Maritime New Zealand should provide extra safeguards for vessel safety.
Mr Smith says during the conditional prohibition period MPI will have discretion to consider applications for AWECs for livestock exports by sea.
Mr Smith says approval for AWECs will not be granted for livestock shipments unless all requirements have been met.
“We are working closely with exporters to ensure the new requirements are well understood.”
Mr Smith thanked Mr Heron and Mr Parr for their involvement in leading the review.
About the review
The review assessed the assurances MPI receives when it considers an application for an Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC), required for the export of live animals, in particular:
- carriage by sea as a mode of transport
- susceptibility of livestock to harm and distress on the journey when exported by ship.
Links to additional information
Terms of reference for the review [PDF, 130 KB]
Review into the Maritime Safety Information Requirements for the Export of Livestock by Sea [PDF, 1.4 MB]
Update on 2019 review of live animal export
MPI will provide advice to the new government once it is formed and then ministers can make decisions.
The wider policy review took place before the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1. MPI consulted widely and received more than 3,500 submissions during the 9-week public consultation period.
The submission of the review to the minister was delayed due to priorities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The independent review by Mr Heron will help inform final advice to ministers on the wider 2019 review.