The accountability of the New Zealand Meat Producers Board to farmers from 1922-1985.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In 1982, the New Zealand Meat Producers Board took control of allNew Zealand sheep producers' meat for export. Although the Board hadthe statutory authority to control meat marketing when it was formed in1922, this authority had not been exercised previously. The moveraised a number of questions, both with regard to the desirability ofmonopoly control over export sheep meat : marketing, and the degree towhich the Board took account of producers' interests in this decision.The stimulus for this thesis came from a well-qualified analyst ofthe meat industry who commented that the one group within the meatindustry with the least understanding of, or influence upon, the Board'sdecision to become the sole marketer of meat, was the producers. Thisseems ironical when the Board is commonly perceived to representproducers' interests. Thus, this thesis represents an attempt to examinethe evolving relationship between the Board representatives, and theirconstituents, all sheep and beef producers of meat for export, between1922 and 1985. In particular, it reviews the question of whetherthe Meat Board's decision-making structure has provided primarily for arepresentation of producers' interests and if not, why not? If not,what other interest groups have influenced the Board?In an attempt to answer these questions, it is argued that the MeatProducers Board has, since its formation in 1922, developed in such away that it has been less able to fully represent the interests of itsconstituents, meat producers. As Mascarenhas commented of producer boardsgenerally: 'though they derive their authority by statute, and have been established by government, they are less amenable to either the interestsof primary producers or the public interest'.It will be argued that this development is partially the result ofthe Board's evolving status as a corporate interest group where it hashad a close and continuing relationship with government. A usefuldefinition of corporatism as it applies to interest groups is offered byCaws on: 'An organisation's capacity to represent its members' interestsand to discipline them as part of a negotiated interaction with othergroups'.The Meat Board is formally recognised by government as the centralrepresentative institution in the meat industry, but increasingly inreturn, it has been required to consider a range of interests in theindustry before formulating its policy to present to government. Thisis associated with the declining political influence of producersgenerally, the Board's increasing commercial activities, and theincreasing political influence of certain vertically integrated meatcompanies. Therefore while the formal responsibility and accountabilityof the Meat Board has remained primarily to farmers, in reality they .areonly one of' a number of groups which the Board is obliged to take intoaccount in its dectsion-making process. Other groups with potential toinfluence the Board include shipping lines, meat processors, andexporting meat companies.While the Meat Board's corporatist nature has strengthened since the Second World War under the predominantly National governments, recentformal and informal challenges by the 1984 Labour government to theconcept of 'producer control ' of the various agricultural sectors, throughthe producer boards, suggests the corporatist trend in the meat industrycould be in danger of breaking down.It is not the function of this thesis to debate the political andcommercial advantages of 'producer control'. Rather it is to challengethe common assumption of sheep and beef producers, that the mere existenceof a producer board secures their control of the meat industry.