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Aquaculture Reform Bill

12 October 2004

Media Release from the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC)
Aquaculture Reform Bill: "...cumbersome, inequitable and bears little resemblance to the original intent," says SeaFIC

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Ltd (SeaFIC), which represents the generic interests of the New Zealand seafood industry, says the Aquaculture Reform Bill currently before Parliament is unworkable, unfair to individuals and off track.

"The $250 million aquaculture sector needs a regulatory framework that will enhance its sustainable development and earning potential as part of the integrated development of the seafood industry," says SeaFIC CEO Owen Symmans. "Instead, after three years of talking, we've got a Bill that is cumbersome, inequitable in its effect on industry participants and bears little resemblance to the original intended purpose

The Bill was supposed to enable aquaculture to increase the contribution it makes to the national economy, while not undermining the regime established to sustainably manage fisheries, and Treaty settlements or allowing adverse effects on the environment.

"The Bill falls far short of achieving the original intention; instead it introduces more barriers to future development of innovative and sustainable aquaculture business in New Zealand," Mr Symmans said.

"It has grossly unfair effects on individual marine farmers and fails to address the regulatory complexity and uncertainty that has plagued aquaculture to date."

SeaFIC says it is a matter of urgency for the aquaculture sector to be lifted out of its current limbo and given certainty for the future.

"It is most disappointing that, after a three year moratorium that was intended to provide sufficient time to develop a new framework for aquaculture, the resulting Bill has so many shortcomings.

"Rather than do nothing, the industry, TOKM and the Aquaculture Council will co-operate to get workable legislation and create a climate that encourages development, removes overly complicated consent processes, provides security of access and is equitable so that the potential of this valuable sector is unlocked," the SeaFIC CEO said.

To assist this process SeaFIC has made a detailed submission to Government which includes recommendations to enable resolution and implementation of a more effective - and equitable - regulatory framework.

SeaFIC says there are five key changes needed to turn the Bill around so that aquaculture can again make a worthwhile contribution to New Zealand's economy, environment and communities.

They are:

1. Aquaculture should be treated like all other Resource Management Act activities, with a full range of RMA planning tools available The Bill's restrictive approach to aquaculture (with aquaculture prohibited outside AMAs) will stifle innovation and development. The only other activity the RMA prohibits is dumping radioactive waste at sea.

2. Marine farming applications that were put "on hold" by the moratorium should not be used to settle the Crown's obligations to Maori. These applications have been held up for 3 years by the retrospectively-imposed moratorium. Now the rules are being changed so that 20-40% of the applicant's space can be re-allocated to someone else. This is clearly unfair; the settlement of one grievance should not create another.

3. Maori need to be active participants in the aquaculture industry, not passive recipients of other people's investment.

We support the settlement of Maori aquaculture claims because it will provide a more certain future for aquaculture. But the Bill provides that future Maori participation in aquaculture will be largely at the expense of existing industry members. A stronger basis for the industry to develop as a whole would be possible if the Crown were to provide financial support for active Maori involvement in aquaculture.

4. We need a fairer and more transparent process for reconciling aquaculture and fishing. The Bill provides an innovative and potentially effective way of making tradeoffs between aquaculture and fishing, but it needs fine-tuning. The Ministry of Fisheries' decision making process has to be more transparent and the cost of negotiating agreements between aquaculture developers and fisheries rights holders has to be reduced.

5. Existing marine farmers should be able to apply for a new consent for their farm in preference to any other applicant.

Marine farmers are not asking for rights in perpetuity or automatic rights to renew a resource consent. All they require is that, if an area continues to be used for aquaculture, then the current farmer should have the first right to apply for a new consent for their farm rather than someone else. It should be simple; the Bill makes it unnecessarily complex and uncertain.

ENDS

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