Aquaculture for all

Aquaculture Review Received With Caution


NEW ZEALAND - Legislation changes recommended by the Aquaculture Technical Advisory Group review have met with cautious approval from members of the industry in Rodney, Auckland.

According to the Rodney Times, current legislation has seen aquaculture stagnate with no new space for development since 2004.

Some Rodney-based aquaculture businesses have relocated to Australia where legislation is more supportive, while others have opted out of the industry.

Jim Dollimore, owner of Rodney’s biggest aquaculture venture Biomarine Oysters, stayed in the local industry.

While happy with the advisory group’s report, Mr Dollimore says there were several areas where the company would make submissions.

"Aquatic areas being farmed are consented, not owned. The 20-year duration of consents should be extended to 35 years as provided for in the Resource Management Act.

"With large costs involved in building the infrastructure, particularly of processing plants which are aquaculture-specific and not suitable for other industries, investors need better tenure," he says.

"They need to know their business won’t be shut down at the end of a relatively short operating time of 20 years.

"Compensation to business should also be looked at should the 20 years stand, to discourage arbitrary cancellation of consenting agreements under such a tight timeframe," Mr Dollimore says.

The company has operations in the Mahurangi Harbour and has consents for a new $3 million processing plant near Warkworth.

Last year the Environment Court gave Biomarine Oysters permission to start development on what will eventually be New Zealand’s biggest oyster farm covering 76 hectares in the Kaipara Harbour.

Full development will take around 20 years, Mr Dollimore told The Rodney Times, because of two-year monitoring between each stage.

The decision was not popular with Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society who felt it should remain undeveloped because Kaipara is one of the last unmodified harbours in the country.

While Biomarine will be seeking to expand its area of operation, Mr Dollimore hopes introducing multi-tiered farming involving different species in the same areas should limit the need to cover a lot of new area.

"Farming seaweed and sea cucumbers in the same area as the oysters, for instance, means it’s not really necessary to expand area to significantly expand production," he says.

Seven years ago John Nicholson, who was at the time a partner in Biomarine Oysters, opted out of the industry after long-term frustration trying to get resource consents for setting up mussel farms, particularly in the Kaipara.

Now a keen boating enthusiast involved with plans to develop a marina at Sandspit, Mr Nicholson says he doesn’t believe 'boaties' need to be concerned about aquaculture farms around the coastline.

A mussel farming development at Great Barrier Island which saw many bays popular with boaties no longer accessible won’t happen again, he says.

"There would be too much negative public pressure for this to happen around the coastline, particularly on Rodney’s popular east coast," he says.

Gary Taylor from the Environmental Defence Society says the proposal to set up an aquaculture agency within the Fisheries Ministry to develop the sector and provide environmental oversight is a clear conflict of interest.

Also giving ministers the power to unilaterally direct changes to regional plans to allow aquaculture, with no rights of appeal, is political interference, he says.

He also has concerns over some aspects of the appeal hearings before the Environment Court and believes the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement may be too pro-aquaculture.

But Mr Taylor believes that aquaculture does have a bright future ahead and the government is right to target it as a growth sector.

"But it shouldn’t get carried away and lower standards. We still need an environmental bottom line. Robust and effective environmental safeguards must be part of the new way forward," he says.

Submissions on the report close tomorrow (16 December). A previous news item regarding the aquaculture reform can be viewed here.
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