August 22, 2011

  

New Zealand's new aquaculture law to boost sector growth

 

 

A new aquaculture law passed in New Zealand is seen to end a "Mexican standoff" in the seafood sector and give major advantages to the region, Nelson MP Nick Smith said.

 

Parliament last night passed a bill setting up a new legal framework for aquaculture that Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said would pave the way for it to become a billion-dollar industry by 2025.

 

Heatley said the law, to come into effect on October 1, would allow aquaculture's potential to be fulfilled while maintaining essential protections for the environment.

 

It removes the requirement for Aquaculture Management Areas to be established before consent applications can be made, and provides for compensation to quota holders if they are forced out of some areas in favour of aquaculture.

 

Dr Smith said the changes were more important for Nelson than any other part of New Zealand. The bulk of future growth in the fishing industry would be in aquaculture, he said. "New Zealand aquaculture has been missing in action while huge growth has occurred internationally."

 

Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Mike Burrell said the legislation provided greater certainty for councils in the planning and consenting process, and also gave marine farmers more certainty, with a minimum consent term of 20 years.

 

He agreed that the scene was set for aquaculture, with total sales of US$383 million last year, to reach US$1 billion by 2025, with space making up one-third of the equation and innovation and marketing the other two- thirds.

 

He also thought that the conflicting seafood industry players in the Nelson region would be "incentivised" to resolve their differences.

 

However, Challenger Group lawyer Tony Stallard said the legislation was "misguided and wrong with its attempt to redistribute pre-existing fishing rights". Challenger covers scallops, oysters and finfish in the top of the south.

 

Stallard said the law was likely to have to be comprehensively tested in the courts.

 

"The rules for so-called 'compensation' are yet to be drafted, and I have no idea how an arbitrator can possibly measure the value of lost fishing rights and access to a fishery."

 

The legislation was earlier welcomed by New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne, who said it would free up aquaculture space that the Nelson-based company badly needed.

 

The new law provides for arbitration to set compensation for commercial quota holders who would lose the ability to fish their quota in some areas if it was decided aquaculture could create more national wealth from that water space.

 

This is a key point in long- running legal action that has pitted scallop and finfish interests against marine farmers in the Nelson region, blocking aquaculture expansion.

 

While Rosewarne has said the change is "brilliant", Talley's Group director Andrew Talley has said it is "appalling"' and that it "violates every property right in the quota management system".

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