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High Dollar Causes Fishing Industry Crisis

Seven year high dollar causes a crisis in NZ fishing industry

By Liam Butler

The New Zealand fishing industry is in pain. The high value of the NZ dollar against the greenback is the cause.

The New Zealand dollar has hit fresh highs against the greenback.

It begins the week trading at 69.30 cents against the US dollar, a seven year high. With the NZ dollar reaching record highs against U.S. currency, Nelson's multi-million dollar fishing industry is being significantly devalued. The likes of Amaltal, Sealords' and Ocean Products have the grey cloud of redundancies looming over their business' as they enter the new calendar year.

The first to be affected by the current negative fiscal conditions are the middle managers of Nelsons' fishing companies. Both Amaltal and Ocean Products have engaged strategies to reduce their labour expenditure, trimming down their human resources in senior land based management.

A consequence of such restructuring is the reduction in the working conditions for the actual fishing boat mid level officers.

Prior to this harsh economic downturn due to the high NZ Dollar Talleys boats Officers (senior deck hand to skipper) worked a on a 7 week trip on; seven week trips off rota with any lesser ranking crew members working on a two trips on and one trip off rota. However, due to the difficult financial conditions the fishing industry is experiencing the rota conditions have been made become worse for the lower ranking offices.

These lower ranking officers now have to have the same terms and conditions as the very lowest ranking crewmembers. This means that low ranking officers now have to work two 7 week shifts on one 7 week shifts off rota. This has the affect of increasing their workload by a third without a similar increase in pay.

The 1990s' saw a great period of growth for the New Zealand seafood industry. Companies such as Amaltal, Sealords and Ocean Products made profits from their efficient harvesting of marine resources. Since 2001 their has been a significant downturn in the profitability of these ventures.

According to Sanford deepwater fishing vessels manager Greg Johansson, "All exporters are having a tough time of it at the moment due to the high value of the NZ currency against the U.S dollar". The continued strengthening of the NZ dollar against U.S. currency, above average labour costs of NZ fishing, the general political instability of the Asian markets have all combined with recent low fish yields to create an economic environment that is hurting the profitability of the NZ fisheries industry. Ocean Products vessels include the Ocean Reward and Ocean Ranger. Sources close to Port Focus say that both vessels have a large number of redundancies recently. In addition, the Sealord vessel "the Aorere" has had to lay off nine staff from their freezer fillet trawler.

New Zealand First's Deputy leader Senior Whip and Shipping expert Peter Brown said today "NZ First is well aware that the high exchange rate is having a serious effect on all our exporters".

"Dr Cullen is on record as telling a select committee that he has several options available to him to address this situation. It is time now for Dr Cullen to stop sitting on his hands getting cramp and act. The time has passed for Dr Cullen to sit on his hands and let our export economy cramp up due to the high NZ dollar. Dr Cullen come clean, if he has no options then he must confess that fact to his Parliamentary colleagues and we need to consider what we need to do to remedy the serious condition our exports trade is now in. We can not wait for people to loose their jobs and for our export markets to crumble" said Peter Brown.

Peter Brown went on to say "NZ First calls on the entire NZ parliament to work together so Aotearoa's economy does not suffer the negative affect of wild currency fluctuations. The initial course of action NZ First suggests for Dr Cullen is to get a group of exporters together and discuss the depth and breadth of the problem and detail options available to remedy this terrible situation".

Peter Brown further pontificated that he "could not emphasise enough the importance of the role exporters' play in Aotearoa's economy. Dr Cullen must keep the vital nature of exporters to the NZ economy and keep their interests at the front of his mind at all times when making his economic decisions. And now is the hour for Dr Cullen to be pro active and actually engage in some corrective action".

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