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Resource Management Amendment Bill 2001- Spch

18 December 2001 Hon Marian Hobbs
Speech Notes

Resource Management (Aquaculture Moratorium) Amendment Bill 2001, First Reading Notes

Mr Speaker, I move that the Resource Management (Aquaculture Moratorium) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I will move that the Bill be referred to the Primary Production Select Committee with an instruction that the committee present its final report on or before 8 March 2002 and that the committee have the authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 193 and 196(1)(b) and (c).

Mr Speaker, this bill the Resource Management (Aquaculture Moratorium) Amendment Bill is the precursor of the main bill which will focus on the wider aquaculture reforms. This bill is about managing the process of change in an orderly way.

Mr Speaker, in recent times we have seen a great expansion in the number and size of marine farms and consequent applications for space for these new farms. There have also been advances in technology, which enables aquaculture to be undertaken in a greater range of marine environments, such as in open coastal sea rather than in sheltered bays or sounds. As a result, councils have been inundated with applications for marine farming activities. Some of them are very large, and in areas that five years ago were never considered viable for marine farming. So the consents are new and have attracted many counter submissions from those who place different values on the coastline or water column. As every application has to be considered on its own merits, people concerned about aquaculture have become involved in and submit on every application

Mr Speaker, this approach means there is little certainty for marine farmers as to where they can undertake aquaculture, and places significant demands on the time, energy and finances of both submitters and marine farmers. Even where a consent is refused, the same or another applicant can lodge another application over the same space. On top of this successful applicants must also apply for a marine farming permit under the Fisheries Act 1983, which may be granted or declined. At no stage of the process is it certain that an application for a coastal permit or a marine farming permit will be granted.

Mr Speaker, the proposed reforms will provide greater certainty for applicants and submitters, making it clear where aquaculture can occur and where it is prohibited. The main reforms will enable councils to look at all the sustainability issues related to aquaculture. Councils will be better able to deal with the effects of aquaculture on the environment - and assist the aquaculture industry to develop in a sustainable way, instead of the stop/start manner of the moment, with some councils under extreme pressure.

Mr Speaker, this bill, which amends the Resource Management Act, will impose a two-year moratorium on new aquaculture activities in the coastal marine area of New Zealand. The moratorium was announced on 28 November 2001 and the legislation will provide for the moratorium to be effective from that date.

The moratorium creates the space for orderly change. At central government level the bill provides time to develop legislation implementing the main aquaculture reforms. These will simplify the process for marine farmers wanting to commence aquaculture activities, and provide additional tools for local government in allocating space in the coastal marine area. The main reforms will improve the process for obtaining coastal permits under the Resource Management Act and remove the requirement for applicants to obtain a marine farming permit from the Ministry of Fisheries as well.

The moratorium will allow regional councils to review the provisions of their regional coastal plans. They will be able to develop new rules providing for zones in which aquaculture may be undertaken with a permit, and zones in which aquaculture will be prohibited. Where plan changes or variations are required, these will go through the public process prescribed in the Resource Management Act allowing affected groups and the public generally to have their say over where aquaculture should be allowed to take place.

In the absence of a moratorium, it would be likely that coastal permit applications could render the reforms largely ineffective.

It is envisaged that plans will provide zones for aquaculture and that aquaculture will be prohibited outside those zones. Councils should retain the flexibility to refuse consent if the environmental threshold has been reached, even though a zone may not have been fully taken up. A council could also decide to take a staged approach to allocating space in a zone. This approach will enable councils to monitor the effects of aquaculture as new sites are developed and to consider the cumulative effects of aquaculture on the environment before allocating further sites or granting further consents.
(The science may tell us that in some bays aquaculture is too dense as evidenced by slower growth for mussels for example.)

The aquaculture industry needs to know what the moratorium will mean for applications in train:
Applications for aquaculture coastal permits, lodged before the 28 November 2001/ and for which a hearing has not commenced,/ cannot proceed until after the moratorium has expired. If, at the end of the moratorium, those applications on hold, relating to areas in which aquaculture is to be permitted, will be processed and decided on the basis of the new rules developed by the councils. Any applications that relate to areas where aquaculture is to be prohibited will be declined.

Mr Speaker, the bill contains a mechanism for lifting the moratorium by Order in Council in specific areas, earlier than its two-year expiry date. This recognises that some councils have already made some progress in addressing aquaculture zoning issues and that the moratorium should not remain in place longer than is necessary. The lifting mechanism will be triggered where a council requests the Minister of Conservation to recommend the making of an Order in Council. Before making a recommendation the Minister will take into account the purpose of the moratorium and the provisions of the relevant regional coastal plan, including the rules providing for the size and location of zones for aquaculture and in which aquaculture will be prohibited.

The bill contains a transitional provision to deal with any consents that may result from applications covered by the moratorium, but which are granted before this bill is in force. Any such consents will be ineffective until the moratorium expires or is lifted; then any that relate to areas where aquaculture has become prohibited will be declined. The remainder will be subject to review by the regional council which may change the conditions of such consents to reflect the new rules applicable to the relevant areas.

Mr Speaker, let me reiterate. This bill provides:
 certainty for a growth industry
 certainty for coastal communities
 time for considered decision making
 time to develop coastal plans

Motion after first reading

Mr Speaker, I move that the Bill be referred to the Primary Production Select Committee with an instruction that the committee present its final report on or before 8 March 2002 and that the committee have the authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 193 and 196(1)(b) and (c).

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