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A fair deal for marine farmers

A fair deal for marine farmers

The Government's aquaculture law reform will set the industry on a sustainable path without compromising the rights of existing marine farmers, says Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson.

"Members of the industry have been reported today saying they fear their rights and investments will be undermined by aquaculture legislation to be introduced to Parliament this year," Mr Hodgson said. "In fact the Government's policy on aquaculture is designed to give existing marine farmers a very fair deal when their permits and consents are rolled over into the new system."

Currently, marine farm leases or licences granted under the Marine Farming Act have a term of not more than 14 years. Marine farms operating under the joint Resource Management Act–marine farming permit regime applying since 1991 have consent terms of not more than 35 years, with most having terms of around 15 years. Neither the Marine Farming Act nor the RMA provides an automatic right of renewal.

Under the Government's reforms, leases or licences granted under the Marine Farming Act will be transferred into the RMA. To minimise disruption to the industry, the term of the coastal permit for transferred farms will equal the balance of the current term of the licence plus 14 years, providing the total is not more than 20 years. After that there will be a single preferential right to apply for a new coastal permit.

Marine farms operating under the the joint Resource Management Act–marine farming permit regime will continue to have finite terms of not more than 35 years, with term length determined by regional councils. Regional councils will have a range of options for allocating marine farming space when terms expire, with tendering as the default mechanism. Marine farm operators would tender for the right to apply for a new coastal permit.

"Marine farmers have expressed concern that the Government is not providing unlimited rights of renewal for existing farms," Mr Hodgson said. "But current law does not provide rights in perpetuity either, even if marine farmers have become used to having licences renewed. Providing unlimited rights of renewal would effectively mean subdividing the sea and giving away sections to marine farmers already camped there. That kind of giveaway privatisation would not be in the public interest, nor would it ensure a dynamic and competitive industry."

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