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Continue The Moratorium Until We Get The Law Right

Tuesday 5 October - The NZ Aquaculture Council is presenting its submission to the Aquaculture Reform Bill Select Committee today in Parliament today between 3.30 and 4.30pm.

From: The New Zealand Aquaculture Council Inc.

Continue the Moratorium until we get the Law right !

Aquaculture (fish) farmers are pleading with Government to continue its freeze on their industry, rather than rush through a new law which is seriously flawed.

The Aquaculture Council says a continuation of short term pain is preferable to jamming through new law in its current form.

The aquaculture industry, which offers sustainable growth and employment opportunities, aims to earn $1 billion in exports by 2020. But this goal will be sunk if the 'Aquaculture (Law) Reform Bill' is implemented as law.

The industry's growth potential has been long recognised by Government, which placed the moratorium on new marine farms to stop a rush of applications, while better laws were drafted. The industry accepted the need for better laws, and absorbed the frustration of the moratorium, which has now run for three years.

However the draft legislation, which was published in August, is prescriptive and unwieldy. It will undermine the industry's international competitiveness and must be modified.

The Aquaculture Council says another year of the freeze on new marine farm applications is preferable to years of problems that will be thrown-up by the bill becoming law.

Callum McCallum, chair of the Aquaculture Council and chief executive of award-winning exporter Clevedon Coast Oysters, is typical of those adversely impacted by the proposed law.

"Our Company has been involved in an industry joint venture to establish and develop markets in Japan, USA and Europe in conjunction with NZTE," he says. "We need modest growth in production so that we can satisfy the demand that we have created and assess new opportunities.

"This Bill will just lock us in to where we are at now. The surplus market demand that we have created will be taken up by countries like Chile and Australia.

"There is a better way - give us time to work with Government and Councils to fix this Bill".

The Aquaculture Council takes issue with several aspects of the bill. Its three biggest concerns are:

1) The restructure of the marine farm consent process is anti-aquaculture. Under the proposed regime, Regional Councils nominate Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs) for marine farms with all other waterspace being prohibited for Aquaculture. The Regional Councils have little incentive to create the AMAs, as they are costly and will take years to implement. AMA rules are inflexible and treat aquaculture uniquely - no other NZ activity relies on changes to regional plans BEFORE the standard consent process has even begun. There is to be a convoluted process before any development. Under the proposed regime, new applications are subject to numerous approvals, including from the Ministry of Fisheries and Minister of Conservation for which no criteria for judgment has been determined. Cost and time for such processes will stifle investment.

2) Security of tenure is downgraded. Aquaculture is a capital intensive industry and security of long term tenure has been vital to allowing farmers to invest and grow. The proposed regime does not give a simple first right of refusal for the incumbent farmer and opens the possibility for farms to be tendered out at the expiration of the consent. Another tenure security issue is the "Catch-22", of some already licensed but undeveloped farms, which are to be prohibited from operating due to a lack of operating history.

3) The Settlement with Iwi for farm space should be paid for the Crown, not Industry. The proposed settlement which gives 20 to 40 per cent of new marine waterspace to Maori, will punish farmers without compensation. Up to 40 per cent of the settlement waterspace will be taken from marine farm applications frozen in the moratorium. No compensation is being offered. This is wrong because it means the industry is funding the settlement, rather than Government.

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