Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Primary Products Inspectors

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

A relatively small number of people are employed as primary product inspectors across New Zealand. Employment numbers are growing at a slow but steady pace. Job vacancies have increased so there should be jobs available for students wanting to enter this industry. Inspectors enjoy a relatively high income.

How to become a primary product inspector

What they do

Quarantine Officers check food and goods entering New Zealand in order keep out animal and plant diseases and unwanted organisms.

Meat inspectors inspect animal carcasses to enable New Zealand’s meat produces to ensure their products are safe for consumers and meet overseas market access requirements.

Fisheries officers inspect vessels, catches and permits to make sure fish is being caught in accordance with fishery laws.

Their tasks may include:

  • inspecting animals, plants and agricultural produce to identify product quality issues, and providing advice to producers
  • auditing and monitoring quality procedures at farms and food handling and processing facilities to ensure compliance with required standards
  • testing samples of produce for quality, size and purity
  • ensuring that required standards of hygiene are observed at storage, processing and packing facilities and in transport vehicles
  • advising primary producers on economic aspects of disease eradication and informing producers and the general public of the health implications of diseases and impurities
  • advising on the identification of pests and diseases and on regulations pertaining to grading, packing and loading of products
  • examining imported plants and animals, and products, such as timber, seeds and dried fruits, and making quarantine arrangements
  • patrolling and investigating waterways for unlawful fishing activities and the removal of protected marine life
  • educating, advising and providing information on a wide range of topics relating to fish and their protection
  • initiating or assisting in legal action to enforce regulations.


There are different entry requirements for the different types of inspectors.

To become a Fishery Officer, you need to pass a test and complete a three-month training programme. You must also have a clean criminal record and pass a physical test.

Meat inspectors need to pass a medical test before employment and have a clean criminal record. Then, once employed, new meat inspectors must start working towards the National Certificate in Animal Product Examination Services (Level 4). This is done through an apprenticeship arranged by the Primary ITO. Note that some roles require a veterinarian.

To become a quarantine officer, you need a degree or at least two years’ work experience in a relevant field such as agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or biology. You must also have a driving licence and pass a medical examination before employment.

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.

Primary ITO:

Cost of study

The cost of study differs between the different types of inspectors. Becoming a meat inspector or fishery officer involves training after having gained employment. Many of the costs might then be covered by the employer. In contrast, quarantine officers need a degree or relevant experience before being employed.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

The Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that looks after training for meat inspectors is the Primary ITO. It arranges apprenticeship training nationwide.

Degrees in relevant subjects for quarantine officers are widely available at universities and polytechnics.

Primary ITO:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences has recently increased to around 1500. Only a small number these graduates will become quarantine officers, but it means there is a growing pool of new graduates to recruit from.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for primary product inspectors is estimated to be around $62,200. Inexperienced workers and new apprentices are likely to earn less than this.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Primary product inspectors’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
1,641 1,311 1,370 1,430
  -3.2% 0.7% 0.8%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the category “Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians”.

The number of inspectors in employment fell by over 300 from 2006 to 2013. However, this trend is expected to reverse, and employment is projected to increase slightly out to 2028.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
15% 45% 2% 54% $44,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission.
*Three years after completion of Bachelor Degree - Biological Sciences. 

Three years after completing a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences, most graduates are either in employment or further study. Some graduates were overseas three years after completion.The median salary three years after completion of a degree was around $44,000.

Primary products inspectors are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Primary product inspector vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites. Employment in this industry can also be found by proactive job searching.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

There is a clearly defined  career path for inspectors, including progressing up through the ‘ranks’ to a Senior Inspector or Officer as well as the opportunity  to move on to lead other inspectors.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level primary product inspectors.

  • Biosecurity Officer
  • Customs Officer
  • Environmental Health Officer
  • Fishery Officer
  • Health and Safety Inspector
  • Immigration Officer
  • Meat Inspector
  • Quarantine Inspector
  • Quarantine Officer

Other information


More information on inspectors is available on the MPI and Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of primary product inspectors has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for their purpose of this report:

3113 – Primary Products Inspectors