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Speech to the 2005 AGMs of Marine Farming Industry

Hon David Benson Pope, MP
Member of Parliament for Dunedin South
Minister of Fisheries
Associate Minister for the Environment

Thursday 28 July Speech Notes

Speech to the 2005 AGMs of the Marine Farming Industry

Legislative Stability – A Platform for Growth

Kia ora Tätou

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

This is an exciting time to be involved with the marine farming industry. We are now moving from the debate and uncertainty over the previous few years into what I am sure we all hope will be a new period of stability and sustained growth for the industry.

The process to develop and implement the aquaculture reform legislation has been a long and difficult one. The competing demands for use of public coastal space meant that the issues surrounding aquaculture development were always going to generate considerable interest and debate.

I have previously recognised that there are likely to be few people in the aquaculture industry who would say that they are totally happy with all aspects of the new regime. No process of change ever provides everyone with everything they may want.

This old adage is also true for the aquaculture reforms. The Government needed to weigh up the views of many stakeholders and interested parties in a situation where many of these views and interests were diametrically opposed.

However, in considering where we are, it is important to remember where we have come from. The drivers for the reforms are well known and include:

- Rapid expansion of demand for marine farming space leading to a large number of applications for resource consents and marine farm permits

- The sheer volume of proposals (10 times the area of the existing aquaculture estate) overwhelmed existing administration systems. It also highlighted serious issues with the allocation of coastal space for aquaculture

- The dual permit regime, which was time consuming, costly, and uncertain for applicants

It was decided that a longer-term approach to aquaculture development planning was required.

The new requirement that all aquaculture activities in the coastal marine area must occur within established Aquaculture Management Areas clearly provides a more certain environment for marine farm development than has previously existed.

The approval of marine farms within Aquaculture Management Areas will happen in a more streamlined way. Most of the potential conflict with other coastal users (including fishers) should now be dealt with through the consultative planning process to establish Aquaculture Management Areas. This should result in the actual resource consent process being a much simpler and less contentious process for the individual marine farmers.

While not providing everything that the industry may have wanted, I believe that together we have achieved significant progress with the reforms. Your participation in the process led to many improvements, including:

- Strengthening the rights of incumbents on expiry of resource consents;

- Clarifying the factors to be taken into account in an Undue Adverse Effects assessment by the Ministry of Fisheries; and

- Including the right of appeal to the High Court on Undue Adverse Effects assessments.

Another major achievement under the reforms – and a key contributor to creating greater stability for the industry – is the Government’s settlement of contemporary Maori claims to commercial aquaculture space.

I was delighted on Tuesday of this week to formalise the Crown's agreement to settle Maori interest in aquaculture with the official appointment of Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd as Trustee to manage the allocation of that space.

The settlement is a major step forward for the marine farming industry in New Zealand. The settlement removes the uncertainty that came from unresolved grievances, and allows the industry to move into the future, secure from threat of litigation or unexpected government action to address claims issues.

The important issue is that the settlement has moved us from a position of potential confrontation and frustration to one where both parties – Maori and other marine farm developers - can work together for the benefit of the whole marine farming industry. If the aquaculture industry is anything like the wider fishing industry, the increased involvement of Mäori in the industry will bring new ideas and new energy to the table. This can only be of long-term benefit to the industry as a whole.

That is not to say that we can rest on our laurels or that there is not considerable work still to be done. Clearly, a major factor in the success of the aquaculture reforms will be the ability of the aquaculture industry to work together with councils and other stakeholders to promote the value of aquaculture and ensure adequate provision is made for existing and new aquaculture development in relevant regions.

There is also still considerable work to be done to ensure that the reforms are implemented well. I understand that Dr John Glaister – Chief Executive for the Ministry of Fisheries – will be talking in more detail about what is happening with the implementation of the reforms when he talks to you all tomorrow.

It is clearly recognised that, as with any new regime, there are likely to be teething problems. I know for example that a number of you have particular concerns over whether the planning regime is flexible enough to provide for very vital experimental marine farming operations.

I understand there is going to be a working group established as part of the implementation work to allow consideration of the experimental marine farming issue in more detail. This working group will clearly include a wide range of representation, including industry and central and local government representatives.

But I would also re-iterate what I have been saying throughout the first six months of this year: it is time to look forward.

This Government has emphasised its commitment to working in partnership with industry and local government to help the aquaculture industry reach its potential.

This was one of the reasons why I was so keen to support the Aquaculture Forum that was organised by the Ministry of Fisheries back in April of this year. The Forum in Wellington brought together key industry and government leaders to support the initiative of the New Zealand Aquaculture Council to develop the New Zealand Aquaculture Sector Strategy and Action Agenda.

The Aquaculture Forum signalled a new mode of involvement for the Government in the aquaculture sector. This approach flows from the broader approach taken by the Government to support the wider goals of growth and innovation in the New Zealand economy.

The aquaculture industry is seen as a growth sector and the Government is committed to its success.

However, New Zealand is a small player in world markets. What others achieve through scale economies and proximity to markets, we must do through innovation, creativity, and efficiency, collaborating locally and in global markets. The aquaculture industry has proven to be an able innovator in the past, with the development of the mussel and oyster sectors being entirely industry-led.

Rather than concentrating on growth in volumes of commodities, our industries need increasingly to focus on adding value to meet known consumer preferences, and the creation of new niche products that match international trends in taste and value.

To achieve sustainable growth through such strategies will require cooperation.
This Government believes that a key element to success is the building of partnerships in aquaculture and other sectors. These partnerships need to be forged both within industry itself, as well as between industry and government.

Since 2001 the government has built partnerships with numerous industries, including textiles and apparel; wood processing; information and communication technology; biotechnology; design; and screen production.

Most of you will be aware that the Food and Beverage Taskforce has recently started work. It marks the beginning of a Government and industry-led initiative to capitalise on one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors.

Industry taskforces assess the priority for development and help government clear away barriers to success. The taskforce consists of sector leaders and the government is willing to engage with them on the whole range of issues of interest to the sector.

Aquaculture, and fisheries generally, certainly fit within the ambit of the Food and Beverage Taskforce. I know that the Taskforce includes representatives from the fishing industry and I hope this process will be used to highlight the pressing issues facing both the wild fisheries sector and the aquaculture industry today.

I also believe that the information gained during the development of an Aquaculture Sector Strategy and Action Agenda could be usefully fed into the wider Food and Beverage engagement process as another mechanism to help progress issues of concern.

Which brings me to this very important industry initiative – the Sector Strategy.

The Sector Strategy and the Action Agenda are likely to be key drivers in the continued development of the aquaculture industry over the medium to long term.

It is extremely pleasing to see the aquaculture industry working together to take hold of its own future in this manner and I congratulate you all on this very important initiative.

I know that the industry’s Aquaculture Sector Strategy and Action Agenda is in the early planning stages but I am extremely supportive of the high level objectives and outcomes that I understand are likely to drive this initiative.

These include such key elements as:

- Increased levels of innovation

- Higher levels of collective action where appropriate to achieve objectives

- Stronger industry/government alliances

I understand that the Strategy will not only have high level objectives and desired outcomes, but a clear plan for how the industry will achieve these goals. This will be an important element in ensuring concrete results from the overall planning exercise.

I am sure there will be a lot more discussion about the proposed Strategy over the next two days. At this point I would just like to stress that while this strategy is – and clearly needs to be – industry-led, this Government is very keen to continue to support industry in making this initiative a success.

So I think the aquaculture sector is now well placed to move forward with confidence. The industry has a stable platform from which to build for the future.

You are grabbing the bull by the horns and looking to take a planned strategic approach to creating greater value from the sector.

This Government has re-emphasised its commitment to working in partnership with industry and local government to help the aquaculture industry reach its potential.

Working together will inevitably yield the success that is the goal of us all.

Thank you.


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