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Second reading of the Fisheries Amendment Bill

Hon Nathan Guy
Minister for Primary Industries

15 April 2014

Second reading of the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

Mr Speaker, this Bill is a crucial piece of legislation.

As members will remember, this legislation came from the Ministerial Inquiry led by the Hon Paul Swain. That Inquiry was set up following serious allegations of mistreatment of crew on foreign chartered vessels. It made a number of legislative and non-legislative recommendations to improve agency coordination, monitoring and compliance of foreign chartered vessels.

This Bill is necessary to ensure that health and safety requirements on all fishing vessels in New Zealand waters are of the highest standard.

It will ensure the human rights of crew working on all fishing vessels are protected, crew are paid appropriately and, as a consequence, New Zealand maintains its reputation as a responsible and sustainable fishing nation.

The mandatory reflagging of all foreign charter vessels to New Zealand will ensure that New Zealand is able to enforce its vessel safety, employment and fisheries laws on foreign charter vessels fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone.

This is a robust, unequivocal, and long term solution that sends a clear message that New Zealand is serious about addressing allegations of mistreatment and underpayment of crew on these vessels.

The Primary Production Committee recommended that the bill proceed with some amendments, including exemptions to reflagging. I agree with some of the proposed amendments and consider that they will improve the workability of the new law.

I thank the members of the committee and its chair, Shane Ardern, for their work. I also thank the many people and organisations who took the time to make submissions and contributed to the bills development through earlier consultation processes.

The Select Committee proposed four exemptions to reflagging:
• exemptions for migratory tuna species;
• exemptions for certain vessel operators holding ACE derived from the Settlement Quota;
• exemptions for vessels used for fisheries related research approved by the MPI Chief Executive;
• and exemptions for exceptional circumstances.

I have carefully considered these proposed exemptions. In particular I have weighed up their impacts on the robustness of the fisheries management regime and the long-term certainty for the Government, industry and our international trading partners.

I believe that exemptions to reflagging risk undermining the Government’s ability to enforce its labour and vessel safety standards on FCVs. Under international law, New Zealand has only limited jurisdiction over these matters in our Exclusive Economic Zone. Exemptions have the potential to undermine New Zealand’s international reputation by being seen as weakening the reflagging regime.

I recognise that foreign vessels fishing for migratory tuna species, in particular for Southern Bluefin Tuna, generate economic benefit to New Zealand.

However if these vessels were to be exempt from reflagging, the Government would continue to have limited jurisdiction over these vessels and would continue to be exposed to this risk. I consider that there will be medium to long term benefits for the domestic fleet in this fishery, as domestic vessels take up any capacity lost if vessels chose not to reflag.

The specific exemption for iwi would simply undermine the Government’s objectives in this Bill. Our aim is to send a clear message that all vessels operating in New Zealand waters must fully meet New Zealand employment, vessel safety and fisheries laws. This iwi specific exemption would risk continued lobbying to overturn the overarching policy.

The only exemption I consider should be retained is the exemption to enable FCVs to be used for vessels conducting fisheries related research approved by the MPI Chief Executive. There are minimal risks to this exemption and it will enable the industry to innovate and move to commercially harvest new species in the event that New Zealand vessels are unavailable or unsuitable.

Vessels used for research are clearly distinct from commercial fishing vessels, and this is unlikely to be seen as a weakening of New Zealand’s management regime for FCVs.

Other changes made to the Bill include vessel registration consent and new vessel registration suspension powers will now only apply to foreign charter vessels, not New Zealand-owned vessels. I consider that the benefits of these powers being applied to New Zealand-owned vessels do not outweigh the costs and risks outlined by industry members in their submissions. I am confident that the risks posed by New Zealand-owned vessels can be managed without extending the new powers to these vessels.

The bill is also being amended to allow independent review of the Chief Executive’s powers to suspend vessel registration suspension, which addresses concerns about impacts on natural justice. I am confident that the new opportunity to appeal to the District Court, and High Court on questions of law, will be well received.

In addition, the proposed powers to cancel vessel registration have been removed from the bill. Existing powers to manage vessels under the Fisheries Act 1996, along with new suspension powers, will enable the government to effectively manage the risk from all vessels. New cancellation powers will only be applied to vessels not flagged as New Zealand ships or exempted once reflagging becomes mandatory in May 2016.

Consideration of marine pollution and discharge of waste material by FCVs has been added as matters that observers can record and the MPI Chief Executive may have regard to when consenting to register FCVs. I consider that these are appropriate matters to consider when managing the risks from FCVs while operating in New Zealand waters.

Mr Speaker, this Bill is designed to ensure acceptable and equitable New Zealand labour standards are applied on all fishing vessels operating in New Zealander’s fisheries waters. It will protect New Zealand’s international reputation and trade access, and maximise the economic return to New Zealand from our fisheries resources.

I believe this Bill goes a long way to ensuring these objectives. I am concerned that exemptions to this Bill will weaken it, and that is why I will be introducing an SOP in the Committee stage that will remove all exemptions apart from the one allowing MPI sanctioned research.

This Bill will show the world that New Zealand takes its obligations to safety and employment in our fisheries seriously. I look forward to it receiving the support of the House.

I commend this bill to the House.

ENDS

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