hank you for inviting me to open your conference. It’s great to be here.
I’d like to acknowledge the Minister of Fisheries Phil Heatley.
I’d also like to acknowledge Dave Sharp – the Chair of the Seafood Industry Council, as well as your board, and Owen Symmans – your Chief Executive.
And I’d like to acknowledge all of you who work in the seafood industry.
The food you gather from our seas is some of the world’s finest. By selling it around the globe, you bring in the foreign exchange that New Zealand needs to make our way in the world. You make an important contribution to our success as a nation.
There have been a few changes since I spoke to you last year, and your conference theme – “Changing dynamics: responding to change” – is well chosen.
First among these has been the change of government. And I’d like to start today by outlining how I expect the National-led Government will work with the seafood industry.
You rightly expect the Government to respect the property rights that you have, to listen to your views, and to work with you constructively. And you expect us to be fair.
But as quota owners and stewards of one of our great resources, you also have important responsibilities.
The National-led Government wants you to live up to these. We want you to work with us to continue managing our fisheries for the long-term benefit of New Zealanders and to continue to be as responsive to changing expectations as you have been in the past. And we want you to keep lifting your game.
We will acknowledge you when you do good work, and we will push you to improve when you don’t. We will expect you to hold us to the same standards.
By working together, I am excited about what we can achieve.
National, with the support of Act, United Future, and the Maori Party, has been working hard to address the issues that matter to New Zealanders and deliver on our election promises. These include our policies for aquaculture and fisheries, and Phil Heatley will talk about these in some detail tomorrow.
Today I’m going to talk about the challenges and opportunities that the global recession brings for your industry, and how we need to make the most of the advantages our seafood resources provide.
But before I look at where we are going, I’d like to take a quick look at where we have come from.
On Waitangi Day I made my first visit to the Treaty Grounds as Prime Minister. And as the sun rose over the Bay of Islands I gave a short blessing.
I gave thanks for the fact that our country is one of the most amazing places in the world to live, where our oceans are teeming with fish, where our lands are arable, and where we can provide for our people.
That is a simple point we often overlook. And it is central to our future.
Our islands were settled by people who came from across the oceans. The sea and its bounty have shaped our history, our lifestyle, and our prosperity.
They continue to do that today.
At times we have been careless about how we managed the seemingly endless supply of fish from our seas. Like other nations, we took from our fisheries without enough consideration for what this was doing to our fishing stocks. We put short-term profit ahead of long-term wealth.
But we had the good fortune to realise our mistakes and take action before we did too much damage.
Today we know that healthy fisheries are far more valuable than one year’s catch. Our fish stocks are carefully managed for the long-term benefits they provide. And our seafood industry is a model for the rest of the world to follow. Since 1996, the wild catch value has increased by well over a billion dollars.
This is not to say that things are perfect. And this is not to say that progress has come easily.
But we need to acknowledge what has been achieved, because it shows how much can be done when industry and government work together.
There is quite a list.
New Zealand has established an Exclusive Economic Zone around 14 times as large as our land mass. It is the fourth biggest in the world.
We have created a deepwater fishing industry.
We have developed the world-leading Quota Management System and put our fisheries on a management footing that is designed to endure over the long-term. That now includes a staggering 96 species and 629 fish stocks.
We lead the world in the protection of vulnerable parts of the seabed. A third of our Exclusive Economic Zone is in Benthic Protection Areas.
We have settled commercial fisheries grievances under the Treaty of Waitangi. This has not only brought major benefits to iwi and hapu, it has also secured the future of the Quota Management System, and helped boost the seafood industry with new quota owners committed to our country’s future.
Today, our fishing industry is internationally competitive without being propped up by subsidies, and helps pay the costs of administering itself.
Past governments have helped drive these successes. But by far the larger contribution has been made by you.
And as a Government that knows it can only do so much, we know that the future of our fisheries relies less upon what we do and more upon your attitudes and expertise.
So I’d like to acknowledge the part that the seafood industry has played over many years in helping get New Zealand’s fisheries onto a sustainable long-term footing.
I’d also like to acknowledge the part the Seafood Industry Council plays in representing your members, working with the Government on fisheries management and environmental issues, and supporting research and innovation.
And I’d like to encourage you to keep raising your sights, keep lifting your game, and keep improving how you manage one of New Zealand’s great resources.
Because there is a lot a stake, and if we continue to get things right, there is a lot more to gain.
TACKLING THE RECESSION
Never has this been more true than now.
We are facing a global economic downturn on a scale we have not seen for more than a generation. This is affecting demand in markets around the world. And it is impacting on New Zealand’s export industries.
As a government, we must do what we can to help our businesses and our people weather the storm.
We are continuing to roll out initiatives in our Jobs and Growth Plan. They include the Small Business Relief Package and the nine-day fortnight. They also include the bank deposit guarantee schemes and our plans to boost infrastructure development. And they include cutting taxes and improving the quality of government spending.
But we also need to make sure that we look through the recession.
Because despite the gloom, I believe New Zealand is well-placed to come out of this downturn stronger than many other countries.
Our banking system is in better shape than most. Our interest rates have fallen a long way, and quickly. Our economy is able to adapt to a changing global environment. And our improving trade relationships with China and other Asian nations will position us well when those countries recover.
But perhaps the best reason for optimism is this: what we sell to the world is still in demand.
Our primary industries, producing high-quality food, and protected in part by a lower dollar are suffering from the global downturn less than most. In tough times people don’t buy so many luxury cars or electronic goods, but they still eat.
And as the world recovers, the demand for high-quality food will only grow.
We need to make sure that our primary industries are in the best possible shape to take advantage of that.
Our seafood industry has a big part to play.
We often hear dire predictions of how fish stocks around the world will be depleted within decades.
Some countries are subsidising their industries and encouraging over-capacity in their fishing fleets. If they keep this up they risk not having any fish for future generations.
New Zealand’s careful management and the property rights that quota shares give your industry are good reasons why our fisheries won’t go the same way.
We must continue to manage our wild fish stocks for the long term, making the most of the fishing today while protecting the resource for tomorrow.
That way, we will still have first-class wild fish stocks when many other countries do not. Fish from these stocks will be available for export and sold at a premium.
We can already get a sense of how the future will look.
Increasingly, wealthy markets in Europe and North America are demanding seafood that they can be sure is harvested legally and sustainably. We are seeing demands from the European Union that all seafood for sale should be traceable back to individual vessels.
If we want to sell our products at a premium in these markets we need to meet those demands. We need to assure customers that our seafood is top quality and is caught responsibly.
We know that our fisheries are carefully managed, but we need to make sure consumers know that. There is some good work going on in this area and I note that you have a speaker from the Marine Stewardship Council at your conference.
We need to keep refining our management. We need to keep working together. And we need to plan for the future.
That’s why the Government is taking the next step in the Fisheries 2030 project and following up on the independent review of the fishing sector.
And that’s why we are taking steps to focus the Ministry of Fisheries on frontline fishery protection.
We look forward to continuing to work with the industry to keep the management of our fisheries ahead of the game and to make the most of the opportunities ahead.
MAKING THE MOST OF OUR ADVANTAGES
The careful way we manage our wild fisheries provides a valuable lesson.
We have taken one of our great natural advantages – the huge fishery in our Exclusive Economic Zone – and applied good science, the best expertise, and innovative thinking. The outcome is an increasingly valuable resource that is a huge benefit to our economy.
Our prosperity as a nation relies on us applying the same philosophy to our other natural advantages so we can make the most of them.
Whether that be in our land-based primary industries, in other sectors of the economy where there is unrealised potential, or in parts of the seafood industry itself.
I’d like to spend the next few minutes exploring one such area with you now.
The National-led Government strongly supports aquaculture.
We believe the aquaculture industry has the potential to provide big long-term economic gains without harming our coastal environment. That means growing and selling more top-quality seafood, providing more jobs in our regions, and earning more income for the country, while protecting our seas.
We want to unlock that potential. We want to grow our aquaculture industry. And we want to help it reach the goal of becoming a billion-dollar business by 2025.
The Government will play two important parts in helping that happen. We will encourage aquaculture development where this is appropriate. And we will get an effective regulatory regime in place.
The National-led Government is investigating the feasibility of potential new areas for aquaculture development.
Last month, the Environment and Fisheries Ministers asked the Ministry for the Environment to evaluate 19 possible AMA sites identified by the Northland Regional Council for their potential as marine farms. The Ministry will also investigate whether other promising sites exist around Northland.
We are continuing to invest in the development of the industry. The Government’s contribution to aquaculture research is around $16 million a year. In January we announced a $600,000 contestable fund to encourage innovative market development projects. And nearly $1 million remains available in the Aquaculture Planning Fund to help councils with the development of aquaculture in their areas.
We are also continuing to settle Treaty of Waitangi claims.
This afternoon I will sign a Deed of Settlement for pre-commencement aquaculture space covering the aquaculture areas of the Coromandel, the Firth of Thames, and the whole of the South Island.
The Deed makes amends for the impacts of establishing marine farms without taking into account the rights of Iwi. It also provides greater certainty for all players in the aquaculture industry.
With regard to the current aquaculture management regime, it’s clear that it is simply not working. We are going to overhaul it.
Aquaculture is treated more restrictively than other uses of the coastal environment. Since 2004 no new aquaculture space has been created and farmed under the new legislation. That is simply not good enough.
We have already made some important progress.
We are taking the Aquaculture Amendment Bill (No.2) 2008 through Parliament. This aims to remove a number of technical barriers to aquaculture. We expect it to pass into law in the next few months.
We have begun the first phase of reform of the Resource Management Act. This will streamline the RMA approval process and make it less difficult, time-consuming, and costly for aquaculture projects to be considered and approved. The reforms are currently being considered in select committee and I expect they will be reported back to Parliament in June.
Meanwhile, we have started working on the second phase of RMA reforms.
Phase Two will not be a quick fix. It will include more complex issues such as resource allocation and governance, and will look closely at the resource management issues around marine farm development.
At the same time, the Government is working with regional government and aquaculture industry leaders to improve the aquaculture management regime.
Both the Seafood Industry Council and Aquaculture New Zealand have made important contributions to that process and I’d like to thank you for your work.
Before I finish, I want to make a final point about aquaculture development.
Aquaculture is a hugely important component of our fisheries and it has enormous potential for growth. But no matter how the industry is reformed, we must always be conscious of two things.
Firstly, aquaculture developments must have regard for existing commercial fishing rights. I acknowledge that finding the balance between these is sometimes difficult.
And secondly, growth in the aquaculture industry must not come at the cost of our environmental responsibilities. As we have learned from the management of our wild fish stocks, thinking about tomorrow is the best way to make the most of what we have today.
Fishing is one of New Zealand’s success stories.
Our oceans are teeming with fish. Our world-leading Quota Management System and the sustainable way that the seafood industry manages this great resource is a tremendous achievement.
Despite the difficulties we face in the current economic climate, our fisheries provide New Zealand with a natural advantage that has the potential to pay big dividends in the decades ahead.
The National-led Government is determined to make the most of that advantage.
We want to keep improving the management of our wild fisheries so that the seafood you produce commands a premium on world markets. We want to reform our aquaculture industry and make it a billion-dollar business. And we want to ensure our sea’s resources are nurtured for the benefit of all New Zealanders – now and in the future.
I know you share these aims.
Let’s work together to achieve them.
Thank you and I hope you have a great conference.Tweet