Cheese changes are too late for some

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - ILLYA MCLEL­LAN

Pro­posed changes to com­pli­ance reg­u­la­tions and costs have come too late for some small pro­duc­ers.

Food Safety Min­is­ter Damien O’Con­nor an­nounced at the Great Eke­tahuna Cheese Fes­ti­val on Mon­day that cheese­mak­ers are set to ben­e­fit from a more com­mon-sense ap­proach to food safety reg­u­la­tion.

But for David Chap­man and Kirsty Sil­vester of Wild­bush Cheese in Dan­nevirke, it is too lit­tle, too late, to save their com­mer­cial ven­ture.

They op­er­ated out of Dan­nevirke for two years from the be­gin­ning of 2015 af­ter hav­ing spent about 18 months con­form­ing to the reg­u­la­tory frame­work.

Chap­man said they tried hard to make things work but com­pli­ance and reg­u­la­tions were drawn out and ex­pen­sive.

The govern­ment pro­cesses seemed more pro­hib­i­tive than help­ful, he said.

‘‘We had a great time mak­ing cheese and run­ning the busi­ness, but the amount of work in­volved to stay in line with stan­dards meant we barely even saw each other on a daily ba­sis. Why are the reg­u­la­tions so com­plex to be­gin with?

‘‘There seems to be a gen­eral prob­lem of over reg­u­la­tion in New Zealand that stran­gles small busi­ness. The rea­son we wound it up in Novem­ber 2017 was be­cause we were com­ing up for an­other au­dit, at a cost of around $3500 and thought, nah, that’s enough.

‘‘It is good to hear that they are go­ing to make things work bet­ter for small com­mer­cial cheese pro­duc­ers, but we have taken our busi­ness in an­other di­rec­tion.’’

O’Con­nor an­nounced the launch of the Food Safety Tem­plate for Cheese­mak­ers, to help them bet­ter meet food safety re­quire­ments.

Pro­duc­ers are re­quired un­der the Food Act and the An­i­mal Prod­ucts Act to have a daily plan to man­age food safety risks. Over time this has be­come a ma­jor bur­den for cheese­mak­ers with plans need­ing to be ver­i­fied un­der two laws, he said.

‘‘The Food Safety Tem­plate for Cheese­mak­ers, de­vel­oped for the first time in part­ner­ship with ar­ti­san cheese mak­ers, pulls to­gether reg­u­la­tions mak­ing it eas­ier and cheaper to meet food safety stan­dards.

‘‘Ev­ery­one has a role to play in food safety and in the spirit of man­aak­i­tanga this Govern­ment cares for our food pro­duc­ers as well as those we are feed­ing.

‘‘We will keep work­ing with our food pro­duc­ers to help them build the tools they need to meet food safety re­quire­ments in the most ef­fi­cient way,’’ O’Con­nor said.

Cwmg­lyn Cheese’s Biddy Fraser-Davies said it was won­der­ful that the hard work she and oth­ers had put in to cre­ate a di­a­logue with MPI had paid off.

‘‘Hope­fully it means what hap­pened to my friends at Wild­bush Cheese won’t hap­pen again. It does seem as if MPI are tak­ing it se­ri­ously.’’

‘‘They had eight peo­ple out here on Mon­day and are meet­ing with some­one who spoke at the cheese fes­ti­val, Dr Paul Neaves, a UKmi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist who is go­ing to give them some in­sight into how things are man­aged suc­cess­fully in the UK.

‘‘So things seem to be tak­ing a pos­i­tive step for­ward. We are de­lighted.’’

LOREN DOUGAN/ STUFF

Biddy FraserDavies, the owner of Cwmg­lyn Cheese com­pany near Eke­tahuna, has wel­comed the changes.

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