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Tariana Turia: Fisheries Act 1996 Amendment Bill

Fisheries Act 1996 Amendment Bill

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Tuesday 29 July 2008; 9.50pm

Tena koe Madam Speaker. Tena tatou katoa.

The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, made a comment that I believe to be of much relevance to this Bill.

He said, ‘Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it’.

It is a comment well worth digesting in the context of this new amendment to the Fisheries Act 1996.

And it is particularly relevant when we think back to the furore that broke out, the last time that the Government sought to amend the Fisheries Act.

The amendment at that time was to section 10.

The 1996 Fisheries Act allows for a wide range of decisions based on sustainability and utilisation made at the Minister's discretion.

Yet eighteen months ago, the Minister suddenly determined that amending the Act was required to address the possibility of uncertainty and ambiguity. To add heat to the frying pan, it was decided that consultation with those most affected was unnecessary.

It wasn’t long before the sector erupted. Iwi leaders described the decision to amend Section 10 as“power-grabbing”, expressing their concern that they had been treated with “the utmost of contempt” by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Minister.

New Zealand Seafood Industry Council chief executive Owen Symmans represented the view of many –“Suggestions that the law is ambiguous are rubbish - it is very, very clear”.

The point made was heard, loud and clear; the Minister and the Ministry had overdone it and so is there no confusion there.

And so on 13 March 2007, the Maori Party made our stand just as clear. The Hansard records that stand: 115 votes in support and four opposed.

We were proud to have those four votes registered; knowing they represented the views of the fishing sector, holding the line so to speak, that no change was needed because the current Act already requires decision-makers to act in a precautionary manner.

A line which incidentally successive Courts have reinforced in two cases on the Kahawai and the orange roughy.

A line which reminds us all that we must act in such a way as to always ensure sustainability – and to allow only the level of utilization that will achieve that.

And so in November 2007, the Primary Production Committee discharged the bill without making any recommendations.

Madam Speaker, this history provides a vital foundation towards understanding this Amendment Bill no 2.

Second time around, the Government seeks this time to amend section 13.

And with the prospect of an election literally nothing but weeks away, the process for section 13 is entirely different to that used in section 10.

The Minister seeks to make the necessary decisions on total allowable catch, and to have the authority to solicit additional research in order to be able to provide the specific information the court has set out.

It is a specific and technical response to the amendments that arose out of the High Court judgment of Justice Millar in Antons Trawling Company Limited v The Minister of Fisheries on Orange Roughy.

Similar to the Government-speak that was promulgated eighteen months ago, the Minister suggests that the amendment is necessary to ensure the sustainable management of fisheries resources for all fishers.

But this time around, what we are able to say with confidence, is that restrictions on fishing take, need to be applied fairly and equitably across all groups of fishers, with Maori involved in such decision-making.

The Maori Party is pleased – and relieved – to announce that for the Amendment Bill No 2, there has been a more robust consultative process with Maori fisheries in the development of this Bill.

Te Ohu Kaimoana and the Seafood Industry representatives through SeaFIC, have been involved in discussions with the Ministry of Fisheries and are satisfied that the proposed amendment restores the status quo.

That the Minister has learnt the immense value of consultation with the industry is appreciated, and we commend the positive response that has been taken in this new Bill.

Whether this complete turn-around has been as a consequence of the adverse publicity generated by Maori fisheries over this breach of their rights or whether it has been because of the all important votes in opposition registered by the Maori Party last year, is unknown.

What we do know, however, is that we have it on very good authority, that the seafood industry has struck a bargain that they will not only sign off on the wording of the amendment and the process, but that they will also do so if the Maori Party – and Labour Maori MPs – support this amendment.

This is a very significant development in the course of Maori democratic participation.

The capacity of the industry to have such a profound influence on the passage of the Bill is a great credit to the strength of that collective voice.

We note too, their recognition that the Maori Party is the only party on the Hansard record to have voted against the original Section 10 proposal. We are interested too, in their industry’s encouragement to the Labour Maori members to continue to hold the line.

We in the Maori Party congratulate Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Seafood Industry Council, and SeaFIC, for the very impressive part that they have played in both pushing Section 10 off the agenda, and negotiating for amendments which neither add, nor subtract, from the current decision-making obligations.

The ultimate proof of the success of their strategy was revealed just two weeks ago, when the Minister sought an order of the day to withdraw the Section 10 amendment.

And so today, we acknowledge that whakapapa, we commend the strategic negotiations that have taken place, and we welcome the opportunity to support the Section 13 amendment.


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