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Mallard: Building a strong sustainable aquaculture

5 December 2006 Speech Notes

Building a strong sustainable aquaculture sector
Speech to the regional Aquaculture Forum, Whakatane

Thank you John for your welcome and also Bill Bayfield for setting the scene. Thanks are also due to Environment Bay of Plenty for organising and hosting what promises to be a very constructive forum. I’d also like to acknowledge the people of the four waka of the Bay: Mataatua, Tainui, Takitumu and Te Arawa.

I’m here today to re-affirm government’s support for sustainable aquaculture.

This government is committed to raising living standards for all Kiwis. To do this, we need to build an economy that is more productive, innovative and export-led. It must be one that plays to our strengths and delivers high-value products and services for businesses and consumers around the world.

Aquaculture is a critical part of this approach. There are three main reasons for this:

First - seafood is a growth market.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations predicts that the world’s seafood consumption will rise 35 percent by 2015 and a massive growth in aquaculture will be needed to meet increased demand.

Twenty years ago, New Zealand exported $48 million dollars worth of seafood and employed 400 people. Today, we export $365 million and employ 2500. Despite this impressive growth, our share of the world’s sales is only 0.02 percent. There is clearly room for expansion.

Secondly - New Zealand has advantages in this area.

We have uncrowded coasts and clean water that other countries can only dream about. We have highly skilled scientists and researchers. We have an active and go-ahead industry.

We have regional and local government people such as you with a real interest in providing opportunities for the people of their region. And on top of that, we have people prepared to roll their sleeves up and have a go.

Thirdly - there is support and strong commitment to moving ahead and the momentum has picked up significantly over the last couple of years.

The development of the Aquaculture Sector Strategy by the New Zealand Aquaculture Council, in particular, has marked a key point in the development of the industry.

It was recognition that the aquaculture industry has become an industry of national importance and that it will also be an important part of our work to transform New Zealand into an export-led high wage and high value economy.

The release of the strategy also coincided with a new aquaculture regime being put in place. It also recognised that future industry growth will require cooperation of industry, central, regional and local governments, iwi and the general community.

The strategy sets out a vision for growth and development of the industry. The target is to produce $1 billion of product by the year 2025.

It is pleasing to see that the aquaculture industry has a strong sense of ownership of the strategy and is in the process of developing a new national industry organisation to drive the implementation of the strategy.

When the aquaculture strategy was launched, the government committed itself to respond formally to it. The formal response is due early in 2007 but I can say now that I see this initially taking the form of a 2-3 year plan of commitment.

This plan will help map the route towards optimising sustainable growth of the sector. The key pillars of government’s response will be to build the confidence to invest, improve public support for aquaculture, promote Maori success in aquaculture, and capitalise on research and innovation and increase market revenues.

To explain these in some more detail - in order to build the confidence to invest, this means working with regional partners to ensure planning for aquaculture is successful.

Government will work with the industry to ensure that the public receives accurate information about the effects and benefits of aquaculture. We do realise that public opposition to aquaculture development can deter regional councils and the industry from planning for aquaculture.

Iwi have a major stake with control or influence over 30 per cent of New Zealand’s fisheries. More fisheries assets are in the process of being distributed to iwi as part of the Settlement process. There are opportunities to develop new activities and expand the economic returns to iwi from aquaculture.

We will also support research which improves the value of existing species and products as well as research on new species and products.

And we will support better market returns through increased market research, better access to markets and stronger marketing.

I fully expect that government will provide funding and other resources to help progress sustainable aquaculture development.

Indeed, on funding, I can confirm that there will be an announcement made on new funding for aquaculture later this week and will be timed to coincide with the Central/Local Government Forum hosted in Wellington.

It's worth remembering why we are here today.

Currently, we get an average $3 a kilogram return from our aquaculture while other countries, such as Australia get nearly $20 a kilogram. We need to turn this statistic around.

The future of aquaculture for New Zealand does not lie in producing more of the same or in high volume production. Our future in aquaculture is in the high value, niche markets of the world.

If it was simple, we would already have done it. Those companies that have achieved this are to be admired. For the rest of us, we have to expand our thinking about possibilities, be flexible and draw on all the strengths, knowledge and resources available to us to find ways to move up the value chain. This requires a total commitment to working in partnership.

Regional partnerships are particularly important. The region is where the planning and strategic thinking on aquaculture happens. It is also where industry and community interests of various kinds meet and too often lock horns. In some cases, it is the place where good proposals founder and die.

Yet aquaculture provides not just great economic returns for New Zealand, but also major opportunities for employment and growth. Sometimes in places where there are precious few other chances.

Lack of public support is one of the key obstacles to the development of aquaculture. If the community, if iwi, if local government are not involved early on and if people don’t have access to good factual information on the benefits and effects of aquaculture, positions easily become entrenched. The end result is lengthy delays and appeal costs. Both the industry and the regional councils learn to shy away from future proposals. Opportunities are lost and no one benefits (except, perhaps the lawyers involved).

The alternative is to build collaborative approaches that can link industry, iwi and community representatives to look at the possibilities and the information and agree on a way forward for that region.

You are here today as part of that process. The Bay of Plenty is a key region for aquaculture. The opportunities are there. Today you will be thinking about how to develop the opportunities this region has, for the benefit of its people.

You may be thinking that there are no immediate new opportunities on the horizon for aquaculture in the Bay of Plenty.

However, let me reassure you that it is nevertheless important to build an environment for the future development of aquaculture in your region. An environment that provides for and encourages new species, new production technologies and possibly plans for new products and markets that we may not have exposure to at present.

In my view, the New Zealand Aquaculture Industry will look very different in 2025 to that of today.

There are many opportunities for individuals to pursue, but real success will come through collaboration. Planning and development of aquaculture is not easy. It requires patience, innovative consultation methods involving multiple stakeholders and most of all the building of trust and certainty. By doing this work cooperatively we can achieve better outcomes for the economy and the environment.

That is an important task which will affect generations to come. I look forward to seeing what results from this forum and I wish you all the very best with your deliberations.


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