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Te Ururoa Flavell: Aquaculture Legislation Speech

Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki

Tuesday 5 August 2008


Mr Speaker, kia ora tatou.


Mr Speaker I don’t know if you’ve heard of a good Te Arawa gentleman, a gentleman by the name of Arthur Bloch, author of Murphy’s Law, summed up this Bill in one short sentence, “If you improve or tinker with something long enough, eventually it will break or malfunction”.

Aquaculture legislation is indeed a tale where the art of tinkering has been taken to extreme.

Mr Speaker, in response to Maori claims regarding aquaculture, the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 was introduced to commit the Crown to provide Maori with the equivalent of twenty per cent of aquaculture space in the coastal marine area which Mr Phil Heatley discussed earlier.

It had incredible potential for tangata whenua and the nation.

The concept was that Maori were granted twenty percent of the existing space, but if the space was not made available by 2014, then a cash settlement would follow. 

This was a measure which tangata whenua appreciated in recognition that they could decide to buy commercial aquaculture space with the settlement monies.

The second part was that iwi would be granted twenty percent of new space – and this is where all the problems started to flow from as previous speakers, such as Phil Heatley talked about.


The fundamental problem is that too few new players, including Maori, will be
There is basically no existing space to allocate to Maori, and because the process is so difficult and bureaucratic, it is too difficult to get new space.  Mr Speaker, I’m not the expert on the industry, but this is what I understand happened.

And so …tinkering number one.  In December 2006, the Government made a technical amendment through the Maori Purposes Bill, related to the definition of pre-commencement space.

Tinkering number two…15 May 2007, Environment Minister, David Benson-Pope, announced the Government had an intention to introduce a Bill to make ‘technical amendments’ to the aquaculture legislation.

Tinkering number three….7 June 2007 the Government introduces a Five Point Scheme to tell Maori what they should do – to work with a Maori Manager employed by Te Puni Kokiri; and to establish some national standards for sustainable aquaculture.


Well that’s all well and good but the problem is, is that there’s a big, fat white elephant in the room that no one wants to see.

That white elephant is the major structural problem in aquaculture and that is the requirement for all new aquaculture management areas to require a private plan change to a Regional Coastal Plan.

Now, this would be a huge expense for a private venture trying to get into aquaculture with no certainty that they will get aquaculture space even after investing what could be thousands and thousands, of dollars.

And so when this Bill came up, tinkering number four, we had every expectation that maybe this time, we would see the fundamental changes needed to address the issue of how we will get new aquaculture space in Aotearoa. 

What the Bill does is to amend the legislation governing aquaculture – to amend

·         the Resource Management Act 1991,

·         Fisheries Act 1996,

·         the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 and

·         the Aquaculture Reform (Repeal and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004.


The Bill corrects technical issues and provides some assistance in amending experimental areas outside of the Aquaculture Management Areas – known more usually as AMAs.


It seems that the Environment Court had defined these AMAs before the Act came in.  This Bill has been necessary to tidy up the definition of AMAs before the High Court made a decision on the matter.


The Bill also amends the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 by revising the definition of new space.

The number two Bill which is destined to follow this one also goes a bit further to deal with the possible effects of spat catching and marine farming on fishing.

Mr Speaker, these amendments are very helpful – but at the best, are nothing more than tinkering around the edges.

Because the problem with this version of tinkering and the trail that preceded it, is that it fails to address the private plan change requirement in the Resource Management Act which enables a new area to be established.

Mr Speaker, while iwi wait in line for the Crown to come up with the marine space, others are fast losing patience with a Government which is tinkering rather than making tangible effort to find any unused space.

And so is it any wonder that Te Tau Ihu iwi have announced that they are going to take the initiative to join forces to seek early settlement of their aquaculture claims.

I am told, Mr Speaker, that Richard Bradley from Rangitane has confirmed that the iwi have asked for aquaculture to be included in their treaty settlement.

They have also included Ngai Tahu in their discussions so what we are seeing looming on the horizon is the possibility of a settlement covering the entire South Island.

For other iwi such as Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa – we know that they have invested considerably in legal action to try to get the issues addressed.  The block has come about because there is simply no new aquaculture space at the top of the South Island – so iwi are working towards a cash settlement instead.  They’ve had to do it themselves because the government has not.

So Mr Speaker, officials from the Ministry of Fisheries have estimated the total cost of the aquaculture settlement – post 2014 – could be up to one hundred million dollars.

But the essential issue from tangata whenua is not essentially about the cash offer.

The issue is around protecting and preserving our rights to whenua, to space, to resources, rather than seeing space alienated further into the creation of private marinas.

In this way, there is a link to the Foreshore and Seabed Act, in that the Crown is allocating space that is not theirs; making decision about marine spaces that tangata whenua should rightly be involved in.

The decision by the Government to provide all Maori with aquaculture space since September 1992 was a unilateral decision made entirely by the Crown.  In doing so, it established a dangerous precedent in that it proposed settlement without any substantial discussion or negotiation with tangata whenua.

The key point Mr Speaker, is, aquaculture is going to be too significant a feature of the fishing industry in the future for Maori to be excluded at this point. 

We need to see Regional Councils being consistent in the way in which they respond to aquaculture management areas.  Currently it is an extraordinarily large process to go through; a process which is hugely bureaucratic and with no guarantees at the end.

We need to have clear and consistent management which will oversee the issue of the quality of representative space for allocation to iwi. 

The prevailing concern is that tangata whenua will end up with marine farming areas which are not likely to yield a higher than average productive capacity. 

Mr Speaker, iwi and Maori organisations have already been playing a crucial role in the marine farming industry as we know.  The central challenge facing Government could be how to ensure the sector is able to respond to the economic and environmental aspirations of iwi. 

We are also interested in seeing demonstrated how the sector can sustain the progress of iwi in upholding the ancestral responsibilities that come with kaitiakitanga.

We will support this Bill at its first reading, as it does attempt to move forward, albeit in a very limited sense. 

But we recognize also, that the real issue of the quality of representative space for allocation to iwi remains on the agenda.

The Government rushed through the 2004 Bill, leaving in its wake lot of loopholes which left Maori vulnerable.  The government have not changed the legislation and closed these loopholes as promised; but we believe that this Bill, at least closes one of these loopholes and as such should be supported.

Although iwi have been allocated aquaculture space under the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004, a recent press release by the Minister of Fisheries indicates that the actual transfer of this AMA space to iwi has not yet occurred, and consultation is ongoing.

The fundamental flaw of course is that none of the iwi aquaculture organisations have taken full possession of their AMA allocations under the Act.  Many of these organisations have been undertaking aquaculture activities on AMA space obtained outside provisions in the 2004 Act - these were established privately owned Maori businesses that have also qualified as iwi aquaculture organisations under the 2004 Act.

This Bill is still needed for those iwi who want to go into aquaculture and where there is new space available. 

And so Mr Speaker, we support at this, the first reading, and look forward to the ongoing debate.


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