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The Next Great Economic Frontier conference

The Next Great Economic Frontier conference
Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa,
9.00am, Tuesday 12 October 1999

Acknowledgments, etc.

I was delighted to be asked to open this conference today.

The subject is exciting:

 there are wonderful new opportunities emerging in our marine areas;
 the long term potential is enormous; and
 now, on the eve of the new millennium, the time is exactly right for us to come together to think about the opportunities ahead.

Many people think of New Zealand as finishing at the shoreline.

But the truth is, our country extends well beyond the beach, and those areas hold a colossal amount of valuable resources.

Just consider New Zealand's vital statistics:

 Commercial fisheries – approximately $1.7 billion contribution to GDP.
 Recreational fisheries – about $800 million.
 Aquaculture – $100 million.
 And tourism – very roughly $600-700 million.

Taken together, our ocean areas are estimated to contribute about $4.3 billion a year to the economy. It is expected that this figure could almost double over the next decade.

These trends are very significant. And this Government has plans for New Zealand to capitalise further on our oceans potential.

Many countries these days are experiencing growth in their marine industries that is at least twice that of general national economic growth.

For the past 10 years Australia's marine sector has grown by about 8 per cent a year, in real terms.

If the experiences of Australia, Canada and other maritime nations tell us anything, it's this:

Our oceans will play an increasingly important role in the social and economic development of our country in years to come, and we're determined to see this happen.

We know that beneath the ocean lies a vast treasure chest that we must learn to manage wisely and responsibly with the health and wellbeing of the environment at the forefront of our minds.

That is what this conference is about –bringing together ideas that balance economic and environmental concerns.

Balancing these competing interests is nothing new. But the sheer scale of the area in question and the potential resources at stake are.

New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone covers more than four million square kilometres. That's 15 times larger than our landmass.

New information suggests our Continental Shelf - over which we exercise some sovereign rights - is an estimated six million square kilometres. That's 25 times the size of New Zealand.

Preliminary surveys indicate that the ocean floor available to New Zealand holds immense mineral resources worth billions of dollars.

Current data suggests there could be about $100 billion worth of hydrocarbons available, and even larger returns from mineral deposits.

Some of the surveys of small nearby areas indicate:

 An estimated more than $10 billion of phosphoric deposits on the Chatham Rise (1990);
 Large alluvial gold, salt and silica aggregates; and
 Possibly more than $200 billion of long-term manganese nodule deposits.

These figures are based on survey results from just a relatively small part of New Zealand’s total ocean area. They are, therefore, indicative only of the likely lower limits of resource potential.

Government's work in this impact area suggests that our future prosperity will increasingly have a marine orientation, as most of New Zealand's natural resources lie in or under the ocean. That is, beyond the beach.

But they will not be easily won.

We have major challenges before us as we try to survey and understand our ocean environment.

The Government has made funds available and this project will be completed by 2004.

We've got the fundamentals right. It is clear that there are great opportunities for enhancing our social and economic wellbeing.

While the potential benefits are likely to be massive, so too are the obligations to manage the way we get those benefits.

Marine resources and marine industries are the new unchartered frontier that we must learn to tame as well as sustain.

The government takes very seriously its responsibility for the environment and an effective and integrated approach to our oceans is a key priority.

We are determined to have an oceans development plan that is environmentally sustainable.

An integrated oceans policy is critical, given the amount we have yet to learn about our oceans and their impact on the world.

Oceans play a key role in driving and stabilising the global climate.

The oceans moderate regional weather, and absorb the shocks of change, both natural and man-made.

New Zealand must learn more about our oceans, particularly if we are going to exploit their immense resources for our economic and environmental benefit.

We have exciting plans underway, with senior officials already consulting with marine specialists and stakeholders on their ambitions for oceans development.

As Prime Minister I am leading this work myself. We have set ourselves one year to come up with a comprehensive oceans strategy for New Zealand.

We are ready to move, to better position this country for its future as a modern marine nation.

Already we've made some good progress.

 We have examined national capabilities and made changes where necessary.

 We have developed new institutional arrangements and new mechanisms to better manage our marine affairs.

 New vessels and advanced survey equipment have been purchased. You can see some of the early results in the poster displays outside in the foyer.

We have a good foundation of marine research, knowledge and experience to build on. And we have good experience with large marine engineering projects like the Maui gas fields, the Cook Strait DC line and the $2 billion Southern Cross cable.

Our oceans provide New Zealand with a huge untapped area of growth and opportunity. National believes this is part of the bright future for New Zealand which we will become.

I would like to thank Dr Small and his team at the Centre for Advanced Engineering for organising this conference.

This is an important initiative that will benefit our country in the future.

I would also like to commend all the scientists, professionals and support people who have made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the oceans.

I acknowledge our very eminent guests from overseas and their scientific research in marine-related industries.

Without people like you it will not be possible for us to strike the right balance between economic and environmental development, which is so important to future generations.

We have come along way, but opportunity and challenges lie ahead.

I trust this conference will consider how both the public and private sector can rise to the challenge of assisting Government to develop a New Zealand oceans strategy that will bring prosperity and security for our people and our oceans over the next two decades.

I now invite your feedback as we move to develop our vision by this time next year.

I now declare this conference: "Our Oceans – The Next Great Economic Frontier open.

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