Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Travel time

I spent a lot of time in airports last week. Getting from Wellington to the Australian capital, Canberra and back again is not straightforward. It did mean I had space for a couple of media interviews and a chance to chat with the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Murray Sherwin, who accompanied me.

The trip to Australia was about building those important trans-Tasman relationships. New Zealand has many common issues with our neighbour and it is very important we have face-to-face talks.

I met with my counterpart, the Australian Minister of Agriculture Tony Burke who is an up-and-comer in the Government over there. The agenda was wide ranging. Australia and New Zealand share many issues of concern for the primary sector including drought management, water storage, climate change, free trade and biosecurity.

I also met with Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull. We compared notes on the economic state of the primary sectors in our two countries as part of a broader discussion on the challenging state of the global economy.

After my meeting with Mr Turnbull I attended Question Time. The Australian system is different to New Zealand to I was interested in how the process there worked.

Now in New Zealand again I am back into the swing of things with the House sitting and Question Time kicking off today.

One of the other interesting meetings I had while in Australia was with officials of the organisation that runs the National Livestock Identification System. These animal tracing systems are generating discussion on both sides of the Tasman.

New Zealand is currently looking at implementing such a system labelled NAIT. The scheme would provide a lifetime traceability of individual animals. The NAIT proposal is one tool that will meet the growing requirements of our trading partners, as well as improve New Zealand's ability to manage new incursions and existing pests and diseases.

It is currently undergoing a second stage business study which is due out in July. Until the full cost/benefit analysis of the scheme is complete the Government won’t be making a final commitment. More >>

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