Beyond belief: NZ supplements sector staggered as government goes back to drawing board

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Supporters of new regulations say they will boost exports, consumer confidence and encourage greater investment. ©GettyImages
Supporters of new regulations say they will boost exports, consumer confidence and encourage greater investment. ©GettyImages
New Zealand’s natural products sector is facing yet another lengthy process of workshops, surveys and consultations to secure regulations that are fit-for-purpose, after the government signalled its intention to go back to the drawing board.

The vast majority of the nation’s sector has been clamouring for new regulations for years, with the existing rules dating back to the mid 1980s.

They came tantalisingly close to achieving success in 2017, before the proposed Natural Health Products Bill was withdrawn ahead of the Committee of the Whole House Stage following a change in government.

The Ministries of Health, and Primary Industries has now laid out its latest plans on the matter, and it’s evident it won’t lead to a speedy resolution.

Process priorities

The government will now hold a targeted stakeholder workshop to enable the ministries to better understand the makeup of the industry.

This will be followed by a survey to industry and other interested parties.

A paper containing policy options will be drawn up by the middle of the year, with a public consultation then likely to follow.

Only then could new regulations begin to be drafted.

Alison Quesnel, from trade body Natural Health Products New Zealand, which has spearheaded the campaign for new regulations, said the latest developments made it highly unlikely that new rules would be in place by the 2020 elections, or when the exiting regulations expire in March 2021.

In a letter to health minister David Clark, she wrote: “It was with a sense of disbelief that we learned of the proposed process. There is no need for yet another round of workshops, surveys and consultations when this has already been done in detail and we question what value repeating the previous, very thorough process would add.

“A more time- and cost-efficient process would be to build upon the extensive work already done and use the previous Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill as a starting point for discussions about new regulations.”

Economic benefit

She added that Natural Health Products NZ and its members were growing extremely concerned and frustrated at the lack of progress.

“We also question why the Coalition Government appears to be stalling for time when there has been widespread acknowledgement of the need for a modern regulatory system for our sector,” she added.

“As you know, the natural health products industry has been a significant contributor to New Zealand’s economy but the lack of progress on developing a modern regulatory system is increasingly stifling business and export growth and reducing on our sector’s contribution to this country.

“In our view the situation is nearing crisis point and urgent, meaningful action is needed.  I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this matter at your earliest convenience.”

The country’s natural health products sector is now valued at $1bn and has seen considerable growth in recent years, both in the domestic market and with exports, especially to South East Asia and China.

Supporters of new regulations say they will boost exports, consumer confidence and encourage greater investment.

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