June 26, 2023
New Zealand government aims to boost aquaculture industry with regulatory reforms
In a bid to transform the aquaculture sector into a NZD 3 billion (~US$1.8 billion; NZD 1 = US$0.62) industry by 2035, the New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries is taking steps to reduce regulatory barriers for fish farms, Newsroom reported.
Officials, in a briefing to former Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker in December, acknowledged that the current Resource Management Act (RMA) processes are time-consuming and costly. While a new resource management system is underway to facilitate aquaculture development, its complete implementation is not expected until the end of the decade.
New Zealand officials have identified three areas where immediate improvements through new national direction under the RMA could have a positive impact on industry growth.
The first proposed improvement involves differentiating between consent rules for research and trials and those for commercial production. Currently, consent applications for research are treated similarly to applications for fully established fish farms. Stakeholders have raised concerns that these processes hinder research and trial activities. By establishing appropriate durations, scale considerations, and other factors for research and trials, the national direction could simplify consenting procedures.
The consent process for commercial production could be streamlined in Maori aquaculture settlement areas. Legislation entitles Maori to a portion of the space designated for aquaculture in New Zealand, although they have the option to receive cash instead. Many Maori have chosen the cash option due to the challenges associated with obtaining consent for fish farms in their settlement areas.
The third option involves providing guidelines to councils on how to allocate new aquaculture space. The current "first-in-first-served" approach is deemed uncompetitive, and officials believe that tenders or alternative systems could yield better results.
Earlier this year, the Ministry consulted with Maori, local government, and industry representatives regarding the proposal. The briefing mentioned that public consultation was slated for mid-year.
The country's new Oceans and Fisheries Minister, Rachel Brooking, confirmed that she is anticipating further advice on national direction for aquaculture in the coming weeks.