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Changes Will Put Iwi Fishing Companies in Jeopardy

Media statement – for immediate release

Proposed Government Changes Will Put Iwi Fishing Companies in Jeopardy

The Government is considering a policy change which will have a devastating effect on Iwi ability to develop their fisheries assets, say Maori spokespeople.

They say that just as Iwi are beginning to receive their fisheries settlement assets, the Government is proposing to impose new and higher wage rates for crew on foreign charter vessels. This unwarranted Government interference in charter arrangements between Maori companies and foreign vessels will make many Iwi businesses marginal or uneconomic and could prevent Iwi participating fully in the fishing industry.

It will force Maori to lease their quota to other larger fishing companies, taking control out of their hands and locking them into a subservient and restricted role.

Richard Batley, the Chief Executive of Raukura Moana Fisheries, says his company is 100% owned and staffed by Maori and produces above average returns for its people.

The Government proposals would put his company, and other Iwi fishing enterprises in severe jeopardy and the end result would be that the potential and income from a Maori asset base – quota – will pass from Maori to non-Maori hands. “That’s not good for a developing people.”

Ngahiwi Tomoana, chair of Ngati Kahungunu, is extremely concerned. “If Iwi can’t afford to make arrangements to directly catch our quota then our only option will be to lease it to other New Zealand fishing companies. That takes control out of our hands and prevents Iwi taking a greater role in the fishing industry.”

Quota is just beginning to be transferred to Iwi, who have to build up their fisheries businesses, and because of this Iwi catch a greater proportion of deepwater quota on foreign charter vessels than other quota owners. They are incensed by Government proposals to impose higher wage rates on foreign charter vessels because laws setting wage rates and conditions already exist and are being reinforced.

“Raukura Moana is part of a group that has worked with Government and union officials to develop proposals that will ensure all crews on foreign charter vessels will receive standard wages and conditions, consistent with New Zealand law, and cut out any cowboy operators,” said Mr Batley.

Iwi fishing companies say they have a ‘fruitful’ partnership with Polish, Russian and Ukranian vessels and their crews.

“These guys work for six months of the year for a wage which is two to three times higher than the average wage in their home country, they are well treated, they get bonuses and we profit share with the charter operators,” Mr Batley said. “It’s good for them, it’s good for us, and profitable Iwi fishing companies are good for this country.”

Robin Hapi, Chief Executive of the Maori owned Aotearoa Fisheries, said there were insufficient New Zealand vessels and crew to catch the available Annual Catch Entitlement and foreign charter vessels currently play a crucial role in helping Iwi to build their fisheries businesses.

“If the Government pursues its proposals it will significantly increase Iwi catching costs. They can’t pass on the increased costs to customers because prices are set by the international markets. I expect those Iwi based fishing businesses that are already directly involved in harvesting arrangements will become marginal or uneconomic, while others who sell to the market will receive substantially less returns from quota sales”.

Maori spokespeople say those low returns will mean that Iwi cannot leverage sufficient capital to have their own harvesting arrangements to fish quota

Ngahiwi Tomoana said a fundamental of the Fisheries Settlement is that Iwi can take a full role like others in the fishing industry. “The settlement means that we will be part of the fishing industry for all time. It cuts across that settlement if government then brings in a policy that impacts on us the most and locks us into a subservient and restricted role.”

Mr Hapi said the proposals on foreign crew wage rates would also have a negative impact on Aotearoa Fisheries, which was a key Iwi commercial asset, and would affect the dividends paid to Iwi.

ENDS

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