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Opening of new Vela Fishing offices, Hamilton

Wednesday, 17 July 2002

Hon Pete Hodgson
Speech Notes

Embargoed until delivery, approx 2.20pm today
Opening of new Vela Fishing offices, Hamilton

Today we open the new head office of one of New Zealand’s largest privately-owned fishing companies: Vela Fishing Limited.

In Hamilton.

Now Hamilton is not our best-known fishing town. But I understand that in addition to a long connection with the sea, the Vela company and family have a deep interest in horses and many other land-based business interests.

With today’s communication technology I have no doubt it’s quite feasible to run a substantial fishing business from Hamilton. If there are times when the business requires a presence on the wharf then Vela still has its office in Lyttelton.

Vela Fishing has been around a long time. I’m told the Vela family originates from a fishing village on the Dalmatian Coast and Filip Vela came to New Zealand in 1929. He founded successful fishing companies, which his sons Philip and Peter have developed into one of New Zealand's largest privately-owned fishing businesses.

Today the company remains family owned and operated, and the tradition of family involvement extends to the construction of this new building, which was designed by Elwyn Vela.

Over the years, Vela Fishing has worked closely with other New Zealand companies to develop export markets for New Zealand seafood. Vela Fishing has been instrumental in the growth of the hoki, orange roughy, tuna and squid industries.

Vela Fishing has also been at the forefront in advancing technology, with innovations including:

• the use of catcher/processor vessels to produce fillet products frozen at sea
• exporting New Zealand fillet products to the British market
• producing and exporting sea frozen Hoki fillets to the US market

So besides opening these offices today I’m pleased to note the granting of a special permit to Vela Fishing for research on what might one day be another new fishery for New Zealand: deepwater prawns.

There are large fisheries for deepwater prawns in the northern hemisphere, where thousands of tonnes are caught. But we know little about the half-dozen species that occur in our waters — and we certainly don’t know if it is feasible to base a commercial fishery on them.

We will need to be sure this species can be fished sustainably. We will also need to know much more about the potential impacts on the deepwater environment before commercial fishing could be given the go-ahead.

Last year Vela Fishing applied to the Ministry of Fisheries to carry out a two-year research programme on deepwater prawns. The research proposal was assessed by the Ministry as being innovative and likely to be of significant value in assessing the prospects for a fishery.

In particular, data from the research should help establish the geographic distribution and biology of the various deepwater prawn species.

So last month the Ministry agreed to issue a special permit to allow Vela Fishing to carry out its research. This permit sets operating terms and conditions to ensure the research itself doesn’t do harm, or conflict with existing fisheries, such as the shallower scampi fishery. It carries no ongoing access or “finder’s rights” and has no value to Vela apart from authorising it to carry out the research.

I know some in the fishing industry are unhappy that there are no finder’s rights in New Zealand’s fisheries. But this is a consequence of the strong property rights created by Quota Management System for commercial fisheries.

I’d suggest that Vela’s initiative — and about a dozen other privately funded research projects on non-quota species — recognise that the industry as a whole benefits from this sort of research under the QMS. If the prospects for a deepwater prawn fishery look good, the fishery will need to be brought into the QMS so it can develop with the safeguards the system provides.

Vela Fishing has my best wishes for this new venture. The development of another new fishery would be a success story not only for the company, but for the fishing industry in general and for the nation’s economy. So good luck, good fishing, and it is my pleasure to declare Vela Fishing’s new head office open for business.


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