Grant Rosewarne, CEO of New Zealand King Salmon (NZK), has spoken at length regarding his vision for salmon farming to become New Zealand's most valuable and greenest primary industry.
In an era where both our Government and the Reserve Bank Governor seem to opine weekly on their commitment to all things environmental, it would appear that this was a match made in heaven.
However, in this case, at least, perception and reality seem to be some way apart.
Currently, NZK has 17 surface hectares of salmon farms (a literal drop in the ocean), of which 9 surface hectares are considered 'poor' in terms of its climatic conditions to farm salmon. In order for NZK to grow, it is critical that six of their salmon farms are relocated, (in some cases only up to one and a half kilometres) with no increase in surface area.
Furthermore, an independent advisory panel, which included Blenheim-based commissioner Ron Crosby, released a report in February 2018 recommending the relocation of three farms in the Marlborough Sounds. At the time, Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said he would consider the panel's report and further advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries before making a decision. Presently, however, there is still nothing definitive by way of feedback and from the outside looking in, it appears Minister Nash is not bound by any panel recommendation or timetable.
As a business, NZK is exporting a premium product to a global audience but is being materially affected by Government and what appears to be 'nimby' attitude in the Marlborough Sounds.
A clean and green image is one thing, but should we really be prioritising a person's view from a bach, for example, over an environmentally sustainable company that is providing jobs and growing our export market? And not only that, the company is also providing material environmental benefits often at odds with the notion of 'big business.'
The Government has been clear about its policy around oil and gas exploration and its commitment to lowering our carbon footprint by reducing total greenhouse gas emissions. So why are they dragging their heels on salmon farming? As one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly of our primary industries, NZK is a business that is not only committed to contributing positively to the communities that they operate in, but is also including net improvements to the natural environment and regional prosperity, too.
In Europe, Norway has proven - without a shadow of a doubt - that by combining innovation and a strong vision you're able to transition from oil and gas to a successful bio-economy. So perhaps with a little help and a little less red tape, aquaculture could have the potential to become one of New Zealand's most valuable industries.
- Disclosure: New Zealand King Salmon is a holding in the Hobson Wealth Partners NZ equity model portfolio.