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New Bill Expected to Cure Aquaculture Ills

NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand Fisheries Ministry is to introduce new laws in a bid to clarify the regulations surrounding aquaculture that have meant that no new areas are being opened up for marine fish farming.

The aquaculture industry has been concerned about the state of the industry since the Government first intervened in 2001, because it feared too much fish farming would destroy the environment.

A moratorium on applications between 2001 and 2004 was lifted in 2005 with the intention that applications could only be made into designated management areas, according to a report in the National Business Review.

Since then no new aquaculture areas have been set up and also the courts threw a spanners in the works when ruling aquaculture activities could be allowed outside designated management areas, The Business Review said.

At the time the environment minister David Benson-Pope said an Environment Court ruling seriously affected major elements of legislation such as the creation of management areas, allocation of space to iwi, testing for effects on fisheries, tendering and private plan changes.

A select committee report on the Fisheries Ministry released today said MPs were aware that aquaculture could expand from a $300 million industry to a $1 billion industry but it faced "major challenges".

One of these was processing applications before the moratorium was put into place.

"Since the lifting of the moratorium at the end of 2004, the ministry has been clearing away outstanding applications," the government report said.

This led to a 31 percent increase in marine farms, or 1736 hectares approved by the ministry under the old law since 2006.

There are still 21 applications covering 12,000 hectares to be considered, the Business Review article says.

The report noted the lack of new areas being designated and noted that Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton was concerned the Auckland Regional Council had proposed a blanket ban on further marine farms.

View the National Business Review story by clicking here.