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Council pushes for payout

NEW ZEALAND - The Marlborough District Council wants an early multi million dollar settlement of Maori aquaculture claims, to allow the region's stagnating marine farming industry to progress.

Mayor Alistair Sowman has asked for a meeting with Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton to discuss the "Marlborough Solution", which would see approximately $30 million paid out to iwi in the next few years, in lieu of marine farm space.

Mr Sowman said the aquaculture law reforms requiring local authorities to allocate Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs) were unworkable for the region, as was the required allocation of space for Maori.

"What we are looking to do is to try and find a way forward," he said.

The Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act passed in 2004 gave Maori 20 percent of marine farming space allocated since 1992 and of any new space.

In Marlborough that equates to around 200 hectares of marine farm space, but most of the space allowed for in the region's plan has already been allocated. Under the legislation, the Government may be required to pay compensation for any space not allocated by 2013.

The council wants to bring the time frame forward with a payout in the next two or three years, so iwi and the aquaculture industry stifled by current legislation can progress, said Mr Sowman.

Last year one iwi sold three hectares of undeveloped aquaculture space in Port Gore for $150,000 per hectare. At that price, Government would be looking at a pay out of $30 million in Marlborough alone.

If the Government agreed to the local solution, council would then consult further with iwi, said Mr Sowman.

However, Mr Anderton said today the legislation provided for cash payouts by 2013 only if sufficient AMAs had not been established.

"It is no good people trying to change the rules after the game has started," he said.

He said he would accept the council's invitation to discuss the issue.

Mr Sowman said the issue was timely, with the launch last week of the Government's aquaculture strategy, supporting the industry's aim to become a billion dollar industry by 2025. "To do that they are going to have to look at the legislation."

Source: The Marlborough Express

the Fish Site Editor

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