Owen Hembry

Owen Hembry is the business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Aquaculture gets lift from law change

The New Zealand aquaculture industry had about $280 million of exports last year. Photo / Supplied
The New Zealand aquaculture industry had about $280 million of exports last year. Photo / Supplied

Legislation aimed at boosting aquaculture will see the industry put the doldrums of a lost decade behind it, says Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Mike Burrell.

The third reading of the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3) last week marked a successful end of a process to fix a law that had stifled growth and led to a decade of missed opportunity, Burrell said.

"The new law will put the New Zealand aquaculture industry back on a sustainable growth path that will allow it to meet its billion dollar goal."

The aquaculture industry, which had about $280 million of exports last year, is worth more than $380 million and has a goal of reaching $1 billion in sales by 2025.

"The industry can now fulfil its promise of generating sustained and sustainable growth and jobs in New Zealand's regions at a time when that is most needed."

Burrell was hopeful of seeing firms take action.

"Many of the companies have signalled that if the regime is workable then they'll definitely be investing."

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said from October 1 changes would be made to the Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004, the Fisheries Act 1996, the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 and the Resource Management Act 1991.

The new legislation aims to promote investment, reduce costs and uncertainty and ensure managed growth within environmental limits.

"These changes will support the aquaculture industry to fulfil its potential while maintaining essential protections for the environment," Heatley said.

"It balances aquaculture development with other uses of the coastal space."

A key aspect of the new law was the removal of the requirement for Aquaculture Management Areas to be established before consent applications could be made.

"This will put aquaculture on the same footing as other coastal activities and enable councils to plan for it in a similar way," Heatley said.

"Removing the requirement for AMAs means a return to aquaculture development going through consents processes under the Resource Management Act."

Under the legislation where it was deemed aquaculture would deliver materially greater value than commercial fishing, an independent arbitrator would decide what should be paid to the commercial fisher if the parties could not reach agreement.

Eric Barratt, managing director of listed fishing and aquaculture company Sanford, said the legislative changes provided new opportunities for expansion.

There were aspects of the legislation that would tidy up the process but the compulsory arbitration was a concern, Barratt said. "You're valuing an existing activity against a proposed new activity. Who says that new activity will actually generate what it says in the proposal and what are the steps therefore afterwards."

He said the only good thing about the arbitration process was that it was so fraught with outcome uncertainties that it would drive people toward agreements.

SECTOR WINS FARM FUNDING SUPPORT

Aquaculture has been added to a government fund that supports community-led growth and innovation in the rural sector.

The Sustainable Farming Fund will consider projects that support economic and environmental performance in the marine and land-based aquaculture sector.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said he was sure the industry would welcome access to the fund during what would be a critical period of growth.

Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Mike Burrell said the inclusion of aquaculture was good news.

Agriculture Minister David Carter said the fund invested up to $9 million a year in projects led by farmers, growers and foresters, often with technical support from industry groups and research organisations.

- NZ Herald

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