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Pete Hodgson Seafood Industry Council Speech

Hon Pete Hodgson
Tuesday, 14 May 2002: 9.00am Speech Notes

The seafood industry, 2002

[Opening address to NZ Seafood Industry Council annual conference, Duxton Hotel, Wellington]

Thank you for the opportunity to address this years¡¦ conference.

As you know, I am involved in many industry sectors. I am the Minister for the burgeoning and exciting forestry industry. I am the Minister of Energy, which is an adventure, especially in winter. I am the Minister responsible for Climate Change, which is an area that affects many industries.

I am the Minister for Science and so am involved in the challenges of innovation in all sectors, but especially the high-tech sectors. I am an Associate Minister in various economic development portfolios - that tends to involve me in many things, from the wood processing strategy to The Lord of the Rings.

Of all these, the seafood industry is the most complex. Some of the complexity drives me up the wall. The layers of regulation know no bounds. Processes to resolve endless disputes between people can be cumbersome and can be frustrated by the narrow behaviour of some players.

Consultation, cost recovery and planning processes add further layers of complexity. We seem to go to a lot of trouble to stand still.

In the electricity industry I have adopted the approach of industry solutions where possible and regulation where necessary. I have brought in legislation that some call draconian, giving me and my successors considerable regulatory and emergency powers.

My intention is not to use that legislation. It sits there as a reminder to industry that they must resolve the many issues faced, and resolve them well. For that industry, the idea of industry solutions without the busy-body involvement of Government is working slowly but well.

In the seafood industry the opposite prevails. My predecessors and I have always had considerable powers and have always used them, for better or worse.

Every month, without fail, ministers and the Governor-General gather of a Monday afternoon to sign off more fisheries regulations. It is a path we cannot follow forever. The weight of regulation is costly to all of us.

For years the industry have been saying that they are maturing, and have been developing structures to ¡§manage the commons¡¨ themselves. For years, Governments have been tentatively agreeing ¡X tentatively because just as the cray fishery breaks through in its self-management efforts, a ling fisherman mows down 300 sea birds. Just as the roughy fishery looks like recovering magically in one area it turns belly-up in another. Just as the industry starts to get its head around fine scale management of paua, we uncover criminals outside the industry who have been pillaging and smuggling to an extent that most of the New Zealand public found breathtaking.

Today I want to signal clearly that the future lies, not with industry solutions where possible and regulations where necessary, but with stakeholder solutions where possible and regulation where necessary. I also want to acknowledge the considerable progress made by industry, even in the last year.

In particular I want to congratulate SeaFIC. They are keen to progress this fisheries plan idea and are hiring staff to get on with it. SeaFIC and we are both learning by doing. The challenges of involving all stakeholders are considerable. Everyone accepts that short cuts take longer, but the process of getting the first fisheries plan completed and out the other end will be a bit of a journey.

Too bad. The Ministry of Fisheries have put out another draft of the Fisheries Plan Framework document this week, which reflects the submissions made by you and other stakeholder groups in response to the consultation draft released last year. There will be further consultation before the framework is finalised by the 30th of June. The industry will, I hope, pick up on some more fisheries or geographic areas and get working towards fisheries plans.

The prize, when we get there, is more industry solutions, improved stakeholder management, less regulation. Regulation works against innovation. Fisheries plans might therefore ¡X we can hope ¡X produce more innovative responses to issues and challenges that arise.

Of course, many fisheries have already been heading down the path of fisheries plans already, even before the term was invented. This and that management company, this and that local fishery. The idea is alive for hoki, or crayfish or Fiordland or Marlborough.

It is not an easy path. And when it has been travelled, the Government will still be around. The future will always see the Government set the standards and enforce them as a backstop necessity. But the future must be one where the Government and Ministry of Fisheries is the port of last call, not first call.

SeaFIC has been active in another area. I would like to congratulate the thinkers and writers behind the New Zealand Seafood Industry Charter. Many of you have seen it for the first time this morning. I saw it for the first time a few days ago. I hope your view of it is the same as mine. I think it is well conceived, well written and balanced. More to the point, I see it as proactive and future focused.

If I could suggest one improvement, it would be the inclusion of some form of commitment to work collaboratively with government.

This charter, like all charters is just a bunch of words until the players in the industry give it status. It has no ownership until the industry owns it. It has no formal legal status but can be the source of informal peer pressure.

Most of all it represents an industry initiative and therefore an industry solution. To the extent that the fine words of the charter are translated into good practice, the pressure to regulate can ease. To the extent that responsible fishers can talk to those still clinging to a short-term approach to the industry, the reputation of the industry will surely rise.

I would like to congratulate those behind the idea, and I hope that it is both well implemented and further developed.

Now it is time for me to gallop through the events of last year and events forthcoming.

The ministry and the industry both deserve congratulation on the full entry into force of the 1996 Fisheries Act last October.

There were hiccups. I recall the concern that Chatham Islands fishers could get hit with instant fines if a mailbag containing their paperwork got left off the plane to the mainland because there was an extra passenger to carry. That one got resolved, as far as I¡¦m aware, as did other minor teething problems. Some slight changes to the regulations are due very shortly.

In all it went smoothly. A two-year IT project involving the Ministry and SeaFIC, to devolve registry services, was delivered on time and under budget. That¡¦s something. In fact it¡¦s something that very few IT projects, anywhere, can boast about, let alone ones that involve government. It¡¦s a prime example of successful collaboration between industry and government.

The new Act brought in some worthwhile sanctions for poaching, too ¡V and when it came into force Operation Pacman came into action. Eighty-five offenders, 140 fisheries officers and help on the main day from the military that represented a remarkable level of cooperation from all concerned.

Poachers steal from you and from all New Zealanders. They undermine our efforts at sustainable management. My congratulations to Mfish in general, and to the undercover officers in particular.

Now I want to touch on marine reserves. The new Bill isn¡¦t far away. You will be intensely interested in it. You might or might not like it. I¡¦ve seen it and I do like it. I think its purpose is clear. I don¡¦t mind if there is debate on the detail ¡V that is why we have select committees. But I think the Bill is modern and reasonable and clear.

I have a few requests. To those who favour taiapure or mataitai or rahui, fine, But let¡¦s not argue for one instead of the other. A little cultural pluralism doesn¡¦t go amiss. To those who don¡¦t like marine reserves at all, please pay attention to the Government¡¦s Biodiversity Strategy, which talks about protecting 10 percent of New Zealand¡¦s marine environment, some subset of which will be marine reserves. I admit that defining what 10 percent means in practice is a challenge.

On the other hand let¡¦s not elevate marine reserves to a status above what¡¦s rational. I strongly support marine reserves and hope we get some more finalised this year. But I do not look to marine reserves as a resource management tool. They are not designed for that. The QMS is.

To test this idea, imagine marine reserves all over the place, imagine no QMS, then ask whether our fisheries would be managed sustainably. Of course not. It might might be true that there are more crayfish eggs in the sea as a result of the marine reserve at Leigh. But that would be irrelevant without a total allowable catch in place.

Now, aquaculture. Before that moratorium was put in place I needed to answer these questions:

Do the benefits exceed the drawbacks of the hold-up?
Answer, sadly: yes.

Can we keep it a secret until it¡¦s announced, and prevent it being thwarted by a sudden surge of consent applications?
Answer: we did.

Was there a fall-back position available?
Answer: yes, and we used it. We moved the cut-in point for the moratorium further back in the consent process, so some more applications will proceed.

I¡¦ve taken some stick for the decision to introduce a moratorium but many people acknowledge in the same breath that something had to be done to clean up the management of aquaculture. It should have been done years ago. But it wasn¡¦t, so we¡¦re doing it now.

Aquaculture has a huge future as a supplier of protein to world food markets. It offers enormous promise for both national and regional economic development. But we need to make room for it to grow in a way that is sustainable and effectively managed, or we will lose out. We cannot have aquaculture bogged down, 20 years from now, by public antipathy and environmental problems caused by an industry that has grown chaotically.

In policy terms the accelerator is down hard. Policy work is due for completion later this month. Marian Hobbs and I are meeting monthly to review progress. Officials are working with regional councils to keep their minds on the job. Relations between aquaculturists and officials are, I understand, in good shape.

So we are making progress, fast, on something that is hard. For those of you still feeling a bit miffed, consider this: opposition to our action, while mostly moderately expressed, has nonetheless operated on the assumption that all applications would be accepted under both the Resource Management Act and the Fisheries Act. That is very far from the truth. Even with the moratorium, if existing applications all succeed, aquaculture space would increase by 400 percent in one year.

The planning future for aquaculture must improve. The industry needs the certainty of Aquaculture Management Areas and so does the public. The status quo will not do.

Environmental standards.

These are rising, inexorably, in all industries, everywhere. World markets demand it. In the seafood industry, the front parts of the Fisheries Act have yet to be fully implemented.

The MFish Environmental Management Strategy is a high level framework that will set out the approach the ministry will take to making progress in this area.

The strategy will also set out the likely changes required in the MFish organisation and processes to achieve the necessary improvements in the management of the adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment.

Let me also give you a quick update on the National Plan of Action for Seabirds.

As you are probably aware, I bumped the draft plan that was presented to me and the Minister of Conservation concurred. We did not believe it went far or fast enough to reduce fisheries-related seabird captures. We have directed officials to revise the draft to include additional options to achieve the necessary reduction in captures and deaths.

There will be opportunities for you to provide input into the development of our strategies, and I would strongly encourage you to get involved. It is vitally important that the industry codes of practice are compatible with the MFish strategy. Where practicable, the frameworks should focus on output controls, to allow for innovation and operational flexibility.

The Oceans Policy is another important strategic project.

Last year at the time of your conference we were preparing to begin the first round of public consultation. That round, stage one, is now complete. Its purpose was to involve people early, to ask really basic questions about values.

The result was very widespread interest, from across society. The advisory committee that did the consultation was chaired by Dame Cath Tizard and included David Anderson from your ranks. I thank them for their work.

We are not far from kicking off stage two. Cabinet has identified seven issues to be the focus of policy development. They are:
„h holistic management;
„h enforcement and compliance;
„h the Treaty of Waitangi;
„h information management;
„h decision making;
„h integrated management; and
„h monitoring and assessment.

Ministers will shortly make final decisions about the work programme and structure for stage two of the project.

In stage two we will address at a more concrete level difficult issues about reconciling competing values, making choices, setting priorities, learning new ways to do things we already do, and learning ways to do new things.

We will need to agree on how to describe what different New Zealanders value about the oceans, and how we respect those differences. We will need to define what we must always make happen and what we can never allow to happen.

There are no easy answers and the questions will certainly not be left to officials. The work programme for stage two will provide plenty more opportunities for participation by stakeholders and the general public.

Let me conclude with some careful remarks about the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, Te Ohu Kai Moana. They have a large job. They are required to be thorough and they are required to be wise. There are legal, historic, commercial and public policy issues with which they must grapple.

Not me: TOKM.

I may not influence them. Yet I am working alongside them to ensure that we, the Government, do no inadvertently cross their path or deal them some difficult issue lat in the piece. We meet regularly now. TOKM is a standing item on my agenda with officials.

In August they present the outcome of their work to the Government.

Ten years, so far, and counting. Long enough, says just about everyone I have come across. So my message to the seafood industry is: Wish TOKM well. Present them with solutions not problems.

My message to TOKM is, as always: Good process, good judgement, good luck.

There is much I have missed. Political support fro the industry last year from the Prime Minister in South America ¡V or for that matter in Africa. Hector¡¦s dolphin, Hooker¡¦s sea lion, high seas issues, hoki quota. SeaFine, Cawthron¡¦s mussel research, NIWA¡¦s new facility at Marsden Point. New species into the QMS this year, next year and the year after.

It¡¦s a measure of the speed at which this exciting industry is developing that I am about to finish a long speech and I haven¡¦t covered the half of it.

Good fishing.


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