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Anderton Speech to Aquaculture conference

27 July 2006

Jim Anderton’s speech to the annual Aquaculture conference and AGM in Nelson

I want to start out by saying I welcome this Aquaculture Conference. And I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about the government's vision for aquaculture. This government sees the development of the aquaculture industry as one of our most important economic sectors for future growth. And we are committed to working with the sector to ensure its success.

We need our primary industries to be successful if New Zealand is going to enjoy a rising standard of living and the social services we all expect. Our primary industries are the backbone of our economy. Only our primary industries currently have the scale and existing base we need to develop substantial international business opportunities.

It’s fashionable to think primary industries are declining in importance. But the facts tell a different story. Over the last fifteen years our primary industries have increased their productivity at more than double the rate of the rest of the economy. Among the primary industries, fisheries and aquaculture have been stand-out performers.

They grew 54 percent from 1997 to 2002. Seafood exports brought us $1.2 billion in earnings last year. There is a lot to celebrate in the success of the industry. And there is a lot to build on. The industry is poised to grow far more. It is becoming a much greater contributor to New Zealand's economy in general as well as to this regional Nelson economy in particular.

The potential growth of the sector was recognised in the rush to open new aquaculture developments at the end of the last century and the first year or two of this decade. And I understand the frustration many in the industry must have felt when the government had to step in with a moratorium on development. Without rehearsing the issues of past, the government was determined to ensure this industry developed in a way that maximised its value.

The long-term opportunities had to be harnessed and not lost in a stampede. That period has now ended. We have a new aquaculture law. And more importantly, we can bring all of our energies towards development and growth of the sector.

In June, I met with Ministerial colleagues and made a number of decisions I want to talk to you about today. The starting point is that aquaculture is a very positive industry for New Zealand. It has the potential to be a leading industry in the transformation of New Zealand's economic base. It can be a high value industry and we need more of the high-value, high-skill exports that aquaculture can provide.

This country has been far too dependent on commodity exports. While we have done well as competitive commodity exporters, we rely too heavily on exports of low value products where we are price-takers. We haven't been earning enough from our talents, innovation, science, R&D and our unique advantages.

We've been doing better in recent years. Our primary sectors in particular are investing heavily in pushing up the value chain and improving our customer focus and international connections. And the government is committed to working alongside our industries in partnership. The government has to play its part and ensure it creates the conditions where sectors can play theirs.

When we look at our future growth and development, the greatest opportunities come from leveraging still more value from our marine resources. There are opportunities in many marine sectors - tourism, recreational pursuits and especially aquaculture. So one of the decisions we made in government in June was to formally add aquaculture to the Transformation Agenda.

It is formally a priority for government. A work programme will be developed -- in partnership with industry -- to help aquaculture achieve its potential. We are taking a whole of government approach to aquaculture. We are establishing both a Ministers group and a Chief Executives steering group. These groups will co-ordinate the work of departments. They will ensure there is action behind when we need to get things done.

One step forward I know the industry wants us to make is to develop a national statement on sustainable aquaculture. It makes sense to make policy as transparent and predictable as possible. The government will produce a statement that explicitly looks to maximise the value we get from aquaculture. It will be an explicit statement that aquaculture is a legitimate and valued use of our coastal space.

The statement will be more effective and enduring if it has the support of regional councils. They are responsible for implementing aquaculture policy. So the Government wants to work closely with councils and industry to develop a statement.
We are also looking at whether the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement should include guidance for councils on aquaculture development. I think that it should. The coastal policy statement is important because it sets out the Government’s policies for the coast. Councils are required to give effect to the coastal policy statement in their coastal plans and decisions. A public consultation document will be released shortly so the public can have a say about the review of the coastal policy statement. I encourage you to have input.

These sorts of steps are examples of the government working better at bringing together everyone who has a stake in coastal development. We're committed to doing better at working with the industry in implementing the new law. Any change of this scale is daunting and difficult and I recognise a lot is being asked of the industry and councils.

Ministers have directed departments to work directly with industry, councils, Maori and other interested parties. We want to see some practical projects to achieve progress. The government's Implementation Team is now actively participating with Councils in AMA process. It won't be concerned only with providing general guidance on the reforms. One example: Officials talked to the industry and regional councils and identified the four Northern Councils as priorities for central government involvement. Departments met with them to identify barriers to growth in these regions. They've set up a work programme to get stuck in and clear away the impediments.

I know that maintaining your existing space is important to industry. Work is underway on the bonds issue, ensuring the costs imposed on farmers are fair and reasonable. And it's also encouraging that work is underway on the important job of providing flexibility for research and innovation.

The aquaculture industry has been built on your innovation and ideas about doing things better. We want to see your innovation and enterprise produce powerful growth and rewards. My colleague Trevor Mallard will talk tomorrow about the sector strategy built on unleashing innovation in the sector. I support the initiative you have taken in developing a strategy.

I look forward to working with you to achieve your goal of creating a $1 billon industry by 2025. Foreign investment will be part of the sector's growth. Feedback from New Zealand's trade offices overseas shows significant international interest in New Zealand as an aquaculture investment location.

Just last week I was in Chile, where I visited a salmon processing facility and was given an overview of the Chilean salmon industry. As many of you will know, in less than two decades they have built an industry from nothing to one that earns around three billion New Zealand dollars a year, twice as much as our entire seafood industry.

Like us they had teething problems in the initial stages of growing their industry but have invested heavily in ensuring the sustainability of their operations.
Today Chile has a high tech, high value salmon industry, and their number one export market is Japan. New Zealand is even closer to Japan than Chile and we have many other emerging Asian markets on our doorstep.

I believe New Zealand has the potential to grow our aquaculture industry to a similar extent at the very least. It is up to us all to find the path, which will achieve that objective.

One such path will clearly be accessing the experience and best practice of the most successful international development models. Just as the industry will benefit from international connections, aquaculture offers opportunities for Maori. Regionally based industries like aquaculture offer real opportunities for Maori development and jobs in their own regions.

As this Nelson region knows, aquaculture can make an enormous difference to the development of our regions. The benefits are shown in an economic model the government commissioned. Industry and councils can use the model to show the positive benefits of aquaculture. It will help to plan for future aquaculture development.

The Labour-Progressive Government is committed to working in partnership with the industry, local government, Maori and everyone with a stake in the sector. We need to focus on what we have in common: that we want to see aquaculture reach its full potential. By the end of this year we will have made progress on the national statement for aquaculture and a response to your sector strategy. The implementation team will have new projects underway in partnership with industry, councils and Maori. There is a lot to do.

I'm delighted to be here in Nelson once again to support the development of the aquaculture sector. This region is a centre of excellence for seafood and aquaculture. It has the potential to become a globally significant seafood centre. It can be one of the industrial hearts of the New Zealand economy as we develop an economy based more around high value primary exports.

This city was named after one of the great naval figures in history. And I believe Nelson today is poised to prosper uniquely from the sea once again. In formally opening this conference I wish you well in your efforts to unlock aquaculture's potential.

The government is alongside you as you enter this new time of growth and development. And I look forward to hearing how we can continue to work together to realise the industry's full potential.

ENDS

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