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Amendments Strengthen Aquaculture Legislation

NEW ZEALAND - Supplementary Orders proposed for inclusion in the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3) will strengthen the legislation and unleash Maori aquaculture.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Phil Heatley, comments: "We need to ensure that the legislative changes we put in place work to create the framework needed to help the aquaculture industry reach its goal of $1 billion in annual sales by 2025."

This target is a three-fold increase on the current sales level.

"This legislation is all about enabling sustainable use of our valuable natural resources to build the economy, create more jobs and get more people into work, especially in the regions," says Mr Heatley.

Included in the supplementary orders is the mechanism for delivering the Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 to Maori. It also introduces changes that will amend the Waikato Regional Coastal Plan to establish a new 300 ha marine farming zone following community consultation over the 2010/2011 summer period.

Maori Affairs Minister, Dr Pita Sharples, comments that the update to the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill will smooth the pathway to settlement of Maori commercial aquaculture claims, and allow trial farming of high-value finfish in a Coromandel Marine Farming Zone.

A Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), drafted in consultation with aquaculture iwi leaders, offers iwi and the Crown more flexibility in negotiating settlements under the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004.

Aquaculture has great potential to boost wealth and jobs, especially in the regions. Iwi already control around 40 per cent of fisheries, but further progress in aquaculture has been hampered by the 2004 Act creating an unworkable solution to settle Maori claims, says Dr Sharples.

The SOP allows iwi and the Crown to negotiate regional settlements of commercial aquaculture claims, which might involve 20 per cent of any new space, cash or other agreed terms. Iwi could negotiate a package that suits their circumstances"

Some new space would be reserved for settlements for three years, to allow negotiations to proceed, but the time limit would stop discussions from getting bogged down. Regional settlements are to deliver space to iwi in more useful blocks, rather than as 20 per cent scattered among each allocation that is made."

The SOP would also allow a marine farming zone to be created in the Hauraki Gulf, by amending the Waikato Regional Coastal Plan. The zone is suitable for trial raising of hapuku or kingfish in sea cages. These high-value species would boost the industry. Iwi would get 20 per cent of the new zone."

This SOP will help Maori contribute more to the growth of an industry with huge economic potential to benefit all of New Zealand, concludes Dr Sharples.

A further order provides a mechanism to ensure that the interests of commercial fishing quota holders can be balanced with those of aquaculture. Where it is deemed aquaculture will deliver materially greater value to New Zealand than commercial fishing in the same area, an independent arbitrator will decide what should be paid to the commercial fisher if the interested parties cannot themselves reach agreement.

"A great deal of work has gone on to ensure that we have come up with workable solutions. I especially want to acknowledge the support these Standing Orders received from Aquaculture Iwi Leaders in respect of the best delivery of the settlement obligation, and the Waikato Regional Council, the Hauraki District Council and the Thames Coromandel District Council around the 300 ha marine farming zone," says Mr Heatley.

"In working to agree these solutions there has been a clear understanding of the common good and the potential advantages the Bill offers," Mr Heatley concludes.

the Fish Site Editor

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