A new live exports job advertised by the Government appears to be "foreshadowing" a continuation of the controversial practice, animal rights group SAFE says, despite the fact findings of a review into live cattle exports have yet to be released.
According to an advertisement on jobs.govt.nz, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is hiring a manager of animal exports as the team "is undergoing a period of growth and change".
SAFE chief executive Debra Ashton says the phrasing seems to send a clear signal of the Government's intentions around the practices, with the ad "foreshadowing a continuation of live animal exports".
"The ministry is operating as if they already know what the outcome of the review will be," Ashton said on Tuesday.
"Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her concern about live export, but all the signals her Government and MPI are sending suggest this is a trade that will continue.
"Those of us who have serious concerns about live export participated in the review in good faith. We've lost faith in that process."
But Chris Rodwell, MPI's veterinarian and director for animal health and welfare, says the group has got it wrong.
"Live export goes beyond transporting cattle by sea," Dr Rodwell told Newshub.
"New Zealand exports a range of live animals, mainly via air to support developing countries including our Pacific neighbours.
"The advertisement is to fill a vacant position and the period of growth refers to a need to deliver on the additional conditions and requirements set out in the Heron Review of Live Animal Exports (LAEs) which followed the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1."
The Gulf Livestock 1 sank in September after leaving Napier bound for China with almost 6000 cattle.
Forty-three crew members were on board - including two New Zealanders - when the ship disappeared.
Immediately after the sinking, MPI ordered a temporary ban on live cattle exports and ordered an independent review by Mike Heron QC.
That review - known as the Heron review - was released in October and recommended the ministry put in place extra requirements for cattle exporters when allowed to resume.
Another broader review into live cattle exports was undertaken last year and looked at the option of banning the practice outright. Earlier this year, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the release of the review's findings had been delayed due to COVID-19.
Dr Rodwell says the wording of the advertisement was not indicative of any decision being reached yet.
"This in no way indicates a position on the wider review but is about ensuring the trade is carried out according to current rules and settings including the new rules introduced after the Heron review and Gulf Livestock 1 tragedy."
He says the advice on the review is "still being finalised".
"Once complete it will be provided to ministers and then Cabinet will make a decision. The independent Heron review will feed into that advice."