July 28, 2023
Delay in national direction for New Zealand's aquaculture sector as consultation cancelled
Plans for a new national direction to accelerate the growth of New Zealand's emerging aquaculture industry have hit a delay, with the country's Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) cancelling a scheduled consultation, Newsroom reported.
The New Zealand government's Aquaculture Strategy, unveiled in 2019, aims to transform the sector into a NZD 3 billion (~US$1.8 billion; NZD 1 = US$0.63) industry by 2035. As part of the strategy, reforms to the Resource Management Act were expected to facilitate the development of aquaculture in the country.
The proposed changes to government instruments governing aquaculture consenting were intended to simplify the process of trialling new methods and allocating space for fish farming. However, concerns about the lengthy and costly current processes under the Resource Management Act led to the need for reforms.
Despite previous plans to release a consultation document by mid-year, the MPI has now changed course. Alastair Cameron, director of primary sector policy at the MPI, explained that national direction is no longer an immediate priority.
The agency is now exploring alternative measures that take into account regional plans, growth opportunities for the industry, and other tools available to the government.
While the government's general Resource Management Act reforms are expected to provide some benefits to aquaculture management, the focus on specific national direction for the sector has been put on hold.
Cameron said that this does not rule out the possibility of considering national direction in the future.
In the meantime, the MPI is conducting a review of the National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture (NES-MA), which was established in 2020 to enhance regulatory certainty for the management of existing marine farms.
The review will assess how the NES-MA is being implemented and identify any issues. Any significant changes resulting from the review may be subject to formal consultation.
The report on the National Environmental Standard is set to be presented to ministers later this year. The current Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Rachel Brooking, has declined to comment on the matter.
Environmental groups have expressed concerns about some of the proposed changes, particularly regarding the allocation of space for aquaculture. Raewyn Peart, policy director of the Environmental Defence Society, stressed the need for careful consideration to ensure aquaculture is properly managed and located appropriately to foster a positive and sustainable industry in New Zealand.