Govt hopes live animal exports will resume next year

The Gulf Livestock 1. Photo: Supplied
The ban was introduced after the Gulf Livestock 1 tragedy in 2020. Photo: Supplied
The government is hoping live animal exports will resume next year, but with a strict gold standard in place.

Several farmers have spoken out against the plan saying it is not possible to maintain animal welfare on shipments and that it is damaging to New Zealand's reputation.

Andrew Hoggard. Photo: RNZ
Andrew Hoggard. Photo: RNZ
Federated Farmers supports the roll-back, but more than 34,000 New Zealanders have signed a petition to keep the ban.

Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard is responsible for reintroducing the trade.

"I do support live exports," he told Checkpoint.

"It provides [an] additional pathway for farmers to diversify their farm income when times are tough like at the moment for the sheep and beef sector."

It also was an opportunity for young farmers who could lease a block to build up equity, to move ahead, he said.

As a farmer himself, he said he had never exported live cattle, because he never had a surplus.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) will advise Hoggard before he takes it to Cabinet.

He could not give a timeline. "But I'm anticipating that the legislation will have been passed sometime next year," Hoggard said.

The government would not step in to help with building or leasing the ships, he said.

"We will set standards on what you need to achieve from these voyages."

He said he had spoken to Livestock Export New Zealand (LENZ) as well as Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE).

In January 2024, a LENZ strategy document said it needed $1 million to ensure the ban was reversed.

SAFE has launched a fundraising campaign to combat LENZ's million-dollar lobbying campaign.

The ban came after the Gulf Livestock 1 tragedy in September 2020, where 6000 cattle and 41 crew died.

Hoggard said the change would mean amending the Animal Welfare Act.

So it would have to go through the first, second and third readings, and the Select Committee process.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has a petition under way calling on the government to keep the ban - saying the only way to fully protect animal welfare is to ban livestock exports.

"Their job is to provide advice for the minister. Their main job is to produce codes of animal welfare," Hoggard said.

He would "read their advice", he said, just like he would from several other sources.

The old standard already had a minimum space requirement for animals, he said.

"There will be a number of suggestions on how we improve.

"In terms of these standards, when I get the information back from MPI, I'll be able to look at all of these range of issues. Once it's passed through Cabinet or [we] have the public submissions, then we can debate these various issues."