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Coalition Government Set To Unlock New Zealand’s Aquaculture Industry Potential

The new Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, the Hon. Shane Jones has expressed his desire to create wealth and employment through economic growth. Sustainable aquaculture is one of a handful of sectors where Jones sees enormous opportunity for New Zealand. Importantly, he’s determined to address the regulatory barriers that have restricted the sector’s ability to achieve its potential for several decades.

Aquaculture in New Zealand is currently comprised of the farming of Greenshell mussels, King salmon and Pacific oysters. The sector’s revenues are circa $750 million per annum.

The 2019 Government strategy for Aquaculture has a goal of becoming a $3 billion sector by 2035 mainly by growing the current industry along with some new ventures that will farm new species e.g. Kingfish and seaweeds. However, most growth will accrue from creating more value from the existing species including open ocean salmon farming. Progress towards this goal has been constrained by an expensive, lengthy, and uncertain consenting processes for new farming activities. Uncertainty in time and cost is a barrier for investment and innovation.

Judging by the references to aquaculture in the National-NZ First Coalition Agreement and also from the recently delivered ‘Speech from the Throne’ by Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro, the Government has outlined significant measures that could positively impact the aquaculture industry in New Zealand. Recognising the importance of investment certainty, the Government has committed to delivering marine farming permits of longer duration. This move will provide aquaculture investors with the necessary confidence to make long-term plans and investments in the sector. Additionally, the Government's commitment to limiting regulatory barriers will enable the aquaculture sector to reach its production potential and contribute to driving healthy regional and national growth for the nation.

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Virtually all aquaculture occurs in regional New Zealand so the additional investment will bring much needed growth for provincial economies. Aquaculture is also an important primary sector for Māori who are industry and have connected aquaculture settlement interests.

Sustainable aquaculture comes with kaitiaki responsibilities that the industry takes seriously and goes beyond regulatory requirements through industry-based programmes. The sector’s light touch on the environment is recognised internationally. New Zealand is the only country that has Monterey Bay Aquarium’s highest ‘Best choice’ rating for farmed King (chinook) salmon. Of course, our shellfish products enjoy the same endorsement. This is a highly respected and influential consumer seafood guide in the USA and internationally. “This helps world-wide consumers choose environmentally sustainable seafood options, and is a significant endorsement of New Zealand’s aquaculture industry’s sustainability credentials” says Aquaculture New Zealand Chief Executive Gary Hooper.

“It’s upside all around for Aquaculture. We are a niche producer of some of the world’s best seafood, loved by consumers at home and revered by chefs internationally. Our products carry a premium over other salmon and shellfish in export markets and there is a lot of demand upside. We just need to unlock the sector’s production potential. Improving investment confidence is fundamental and we are greatly encouraged by these early signals from Minister Jones and look forward to working with the Government to unlock the sector’s potential.”

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