Red tape forces mussel pioneers out of industry

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
8 May 2007, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand's aquaculture industry is being crippled by bureaucracy, say a group of Marlborough mussel farm pioneers getting out for good.

John Pickering is one of three mussel farmers to have sold up since March, saying "bureaucratic bullshit" has stifled the industry's potential, making growth "virtually impossible".

"That was one of the main reasons that got to me in the end. The room to expand my business was just not there.

"We spent mega money to come up against brick walls every time," he said. One case took five years and $3 million in the Environment Court, "and we didn't have one inch of water space more".

In March, Mr Pickering and business partner Robbie Brownlee sold their shares in Pickering Brownlee and Talley's Mussels, which farmed 90 hectares in the Sounds, to the third shareholder Talley's.

"We have got a great industry if it had potential to grow. But it hasn't got that potential now," Mr Pickering said.

In May last year The Marlborough Express reported on Marlborough marine farmers setting up shop in Australia, due to frustration with red tape.

Today Mr Pickering said he had been approached by companies in Scotland and Ireland to set up marine farming operations there.

"Once I would never ever have thought about taking our technology out of the country", but people's "sheer frustrations" meant that had already happened, he said.

"The invitation and the rewards are substantial. It's a shame for our industry that is sitting here, poised to do the business, but these other countries are going to overtake us."

After 30 years in the Marlborough mussel industry, Peter Large sold up last month, blaming bureaucracy, the price and "the excuse for a dollar".

"We have been pushed out," he said.

He has long had plans to retire, but said his son could have continued to run the business if it had been worth it.

Mr Pickering said the high dollar made an already bad situation untenable.

Source: The Marlborough Express