Honeylands Naturally, a Wanaka honey packing business specialising in single servings, has had their protest against the Ministry for Primary Industries fees denied, with the Ombudsman citing MPI’s actions were not unreasonable and within the laws set by parliament.
Apiarist’s Advocate detailed owner Chris Watkins grievances with the Risk Management Programme (RMP) auditing process and complaint to the Ombudsman in April. Following the story, seven other honey processors who had revoked their RMP, or were considering it, offered their support to Honeylands’ Ombudsman application. Watkins complained of the frequency (6 monthly) of their audit, the amount charged, and the decision to increase the charge rate.
Since the complaint was lodged some changes have been made to rules around audit frequency for proven competent operators (as detailed in RMP Audit Frequency Changes Are No Guaranteed Win, this issue), but it is too little too late for Honeylands Naturally who have suspended their RMP due to the cost.
“Our small company had to make a decision; it was beyond our ability. When your compliance bill comes out at $10,000 a year it is just too much. It’s crazy,” Watkins says.
They will no longer be able to pack honey for export, but can still pack honey for domestic sale under a Food Control Program (FCP) registration, which they hold for some of the other products they produce.
“We can manufacture jams, dressings, all sorts, and export them, but when it comes to honey they want it under an RMP. If we put one percent of something else in the honey and called it a spread, they couldn’t touch it,” Watkins laments.
Their export market for honey had reduced in recent years he says, but he has driven for change to spiralling compliance costs for the good of younger people in the honey industry. Now, with the Ombudsman ruling that such costs are within MPI’s remit provided by Government, he plans to speak to his local MP to try and stimulate changes, and encourages others in a similar boat to do so too.
“Get alongside your local MP, because the incumbent Minister for Primary Industries will just wipe you aside and point you back to MPI, just like they did to me, just like they did to Billy Mulcare from Kāre Honey. You need to contact an opposition MP or maybe your local candidate to lobby their own party.”