COMMENT:

There's a lot of ocean around us. In fact, 96 per cent of New Zealand is ocean. We have the fourth largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, and one of the few that does not overlap with any other country's EEZ. Our oceans teem with a species diversity and our fisheries management system is considered best in class.

Yet we largely talk about land. We strategise, scrutinise, collaborate to maximise the value from that "4 per cent", trying to balance economic objectives with environmental pressures.

It seems remiss to me how rarely New Zealand reflects on the vastness of ocean surrounding our home. The potential for us to tap into our oceans, both environmentally and economically, to create sustainable value and health for every New Zealander is vast.

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My goal is to shift emphasis to our oceans — the largely forgotten 96 per cent of New Zealand — and see stakeholders collaborating selflessly to create a single vision for our blue economy that protects and provides on behalf of us all.

We need to consider an Oceans Strategy (or policy) for New Zealand. A smart Oceans Strategy will fast-track much needed decisions surrounding the utilisation of water space to farm the most environmentally-friendly protein.

For example, the promotion of aquaculture through the creation of a more enabling environment, allowing for improved water space allocation, easier access to funding, and state-of-the-art infrastructure in manufacturing and logistics would immediately benefit existing operations.

Value encompasses the ability for companies to invest in processing facilities in regional New Zealand to produce face masks made from fish waste or to manufacture nutraceuticals made from Greenshell mussels.

Beyond that, we could be as bold as considering a national focus on seaweed that would range from identifying appropriate farming regions and methods to innovating farming technology and products like high-value algae oil extracts or pharmaceuticals. Add seaweed's potential to sequester carbon to the mix and we have a species that provides a basis for a large-scale multi-stakeholder project that would have benefits for the environment, economy and people.

These ideas are a start. Where we end up, well, the world is our oyster.

There is generally a good collaborative spirit in New Zealand, especially when you talk to a cross-sectoral group, including the Crown Research Institutes, a very innovative environment that has given rise to some game-changing ideas like Precision Seafood Harvesting and SpatNZ, the world's only Greenshell mussel hatchery.

With climate change being our greatest challenge, the initiative we need to drive is the adaptation of our fishing and aquaculture industries to likely developments we anticipate.

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New Zealand's ocean — our moat — is positioned to protect and sustain the country into an unknown future. There has never been a more perfect time than now for the innovative spirit and caring nature of Kiwis to navigate the course for its success.

- Volker Kuntzsch is the chief executive of Sanford.