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New Rules Open Way For Fin Fish Farming


NEW ZEALAND - New rules designed to remove barriers to aquaculture development are likely to open the way for fin fish farming in Tasman Bay and areas of coastal Waikato, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Phil Heatley said in Nelson earlier this week.

Mr Heatley was speaking to a large gathering of industry members at the two-day New Zealand Aquaculture Conference which ends today. The focus is on planning for future growth, reports The Nelson Mail.

Legislation was introduced to Parliament this month to amend laws on aquaculture that will replace a regulatory framework that has seen no new sea space allocated since 2004.

Mr Heatley said that changes to regional coastal plans in the Tasman and Waikato areas will support aquaculture development, and provisions that restrict the range of species that can be farmed will be changed.

However, the new legislation was not yet detailed enough to assess its potential impact on Nelson-based New Zealand King Salmon's plans for expansion, company head Grant Rosewarne said outside the conference. He said the law reforms have provided clarity for Tasman Bay and Waikato, but less for the Marlborough Sounds, where New Zealand King Salmon's farms are located.

He said recently that although aquaculture reforms are important to the company's expansion plans, they are not essential. The company was "taking a leap of faith" in proposed aquaculture law reforms with a $16 million expansion of its Nelson processing plant, Mr Rosewarne said recently.

Sealord chief executive Graham Stuart welcomed opportunities to enhance aquaculture development, but said the industry faced further constraints. He said while the future for mussel farming in New Zealand was bright, there were "very real constraints" on the fin fish industry, such as reliance on imported feed, distance from key markets and critically, access to investment capital.

Mr Heatley said the process needed to create new opportunities had relied heavily on local authority buy-in. He commended respective councils – Tasman and Waikato – which he said had been a "dream" to work with.

"I'm surprised, and not because we think councils don't cooperate, but because tensions around coastal space are so great," Mr Heatley said.

Cabinet has agreed in principle – subject to budget decisions – to additional funding to be made available on a grants basis for local government to support changes to regional coastal plans towards enabling "sustainable aquaculture development".

Mr Heatley said marine farmers with a resource consent application in the pipeline now, can expect their application to be processed from day one of the new law, likely to be around mid next year.

He said while there was a desire to see more area set aside in the push for growth, no one wanted to "overstretch" Tasman Bay or the Waikato.

"I'm going overseas and will be looking at areas where its [aquaculture] turned to custard when there's to much pressure on the environment, because we don't want to go there," Mr Heatley said.

He said the Government was committed to upholding Maori commercial aquaculture claims settlement, including that Maori be provided with 20 per cent of new aquaculture space, but a new mechanism for delivering those obligations was needed.