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Resolving the crisis in New Zealand shipping

Resolving the crisis in New Zealand shipping
By Trevor Hanson
General Secretary, Maritime Union of New Zealand

In a recent interview with Port Focus, Green Party co-leader Rod Donald laid the blame for the demise of the New Zealand coastal shipping industry at the door of Transport Minister Paul Swain.

This is incorrect.

The blame belongs to the free market approach of the previous National Government.

In 1994, driven by now newly resurrected National MP Maurice Williamson, the Maritime Transport Bill was introduced that repealed the Shipping and Seamen¹s Act.

Through Section 198 of the Maritime Transport Bill, the then National Government opened the New Zealand coast to foreign flag shipping.

Since then, the New Zealand shipping industry has steadily declined to a point of crisis.

In addition, it is impossible to estimate the extent to which New Zealand¹s coastal environment has been affected by these changes.

Mr Donald¹s comments seem strange in the light of the Green Party "Partnership" with the Labour led Government in their New Zealand Transport Strategy.

The Maritime Union has been critical of the strategy document in its lack of specific comment and direction on the Maritime Industry.

But we fully support the fundamental approach of the Strategy in "creating a transport system that is affordable, INTEGRATED safe and responsive to our needs."

Any integrated transport system will include a robust coastal shipping industry as a basic part of our transport infrastructure.

The Maritime Union also warns the Government that the Transport Strategy must fail if the New Zealand maritime industry fails.

New Zealand is now dependant on foreign shipping in the domestic Tasman trade with one of our biggest trading partners.

The same situation is rapidly coming to pass in our internal transport industry, and particularly the coastal domestic trade.

Mr Donald¹s support for the Maritime Union¹s call for "a cabotage system" is a correct position and consistent we believe with the Partnership Transport Strategy.

What form cabotage might take and how it is structured is the difficult part ­ getting the Genie back into the bottle is always like that, it often doesn¹t fit in the way it came out.

The Maritime Union believes that the Government and the Transport Minister knows this. It is an urgent issue and a resolution needs to be reached soon.

The present Government has been slow to react to industry concerns and a Report from their own Shipping Industry Review, but it cannot be said they are to blame for the current situation.


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