1 November, 2012
Speech to Aquaculture New Zealand Conference
Firstly, I want to say I agree wholeheartedly with your theme this year - "Looking Forward to Sustainable Growth."
That is very much my focus, and the focus of this Government.
I want to begin today with the Government’s Business Growth Agenda and how important the primary industries are to achieving our ambitious economic growth goals.
Aquaculture is vital to New Zealand’s export growth and the Government has committed to partnering with your industry to ensure we all meet our targets.
We want to see you grow and achieve your goal of a $1 billion industry by 2025. But getting there won’t be without its challenges, and I will talk more about that shortly.
What has always impressed me with the aquaculture industry is that it’s a can-do industry.
I know some of you have been involved for close to 40 years, but in terms of primary industries, aquaculture is sometimes seen as the new kid on the block.
The good thing about this is that you aren’t bound by any kind of tradition – you are free to innovate.
In saying that, there is one exception – the ability to farm trout, which I know there’s a level of interest in.
I realise there would be some disappointment in this room over the Government’s decision to extend the Customs Import Prohibition Order for trout.
To be quite clear, we considered the implication of this CIPO carefully, but the Government is simply not prepared to enter into a debate on farming trout at this stage.
Having said that, there is no doubt that innovation is what we need to grow New Zealand businesses, create jobs and improve New Zealanders’ standard of living.
Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, for example, recently received the tick from the Global Aquaculture Alliance for Best Aquaculture Practice.
It’s the first aquaculture facility in Australasia to receive this certification based on its environmentally and socially responsible track record.
Not bad for the ‘highest salmon farm in the world’!
And it’s the most recent accolade for the company that took Supreme Winner of the New Zealand Food Awards last year.
Being able to prove that we grow our food in an environmentally safe and sustainable way will help us maintain and grow both our good international reputation and demand for high value products.
But back to the Government’s Growth Agenda - the crux of which involves supporting New Zealand businesses to grow.
This aims to deliver initiatives and policy reforms that will help create a more productive and competitive economy.
Key to this is increasing export markets, encouraging and enabling investment in research and development, strengthening infrastructure and building a skilled and responsive labour market.
Currently New Zealand exports at least 80 per cent of the food we produce.
We are renowned as producers of some of the best food in the world, at a time when food security is one of the world’s greatest challenges.
This Government has set an ambitious target to see exports lift from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. Your sector can make a significant contribution to this goal.
We all know primary industries are the engine room of the New Zealand economy, responsible for 71 per cent of our merchandise exports.
I see two specific reasons for confidence within your industry.
Firstly, earnings are forecast to continue to increase.
And secondly, New Zealand aquaculture has huge opportunity to meet growing global seafood demand.
As you all know, the Government’s National Aquaculture Strategy and Five-year Action Plan was launched in May this year.
This strategy sets out exactly how the Government will support growth of the aquaculture industry over the next five years. An important aspect of this is the identified markers for measuring progress and performance.
But also crucial is that the growth of the sector must be led by industry. Our strategy must underpin your industry’s own growth strategy – interceding only where government can add value and where industry and others cannot act alone.
Those areas include ensuring we have a healthy aquatic environment, supporting initiatives to increase market revenues and supporting targeted research and development aligned with your priorities.
The Government also wants to see quality planning that unlocks new aquaculture growth and ensures the protection of existing farm space.
The regulatory framework for aquaculture needs to be efficient and effective and support responsible stewardship of our natural resources while allowing you to conduct business economically.
One of our top priorities is effective coastal planning. While the legislative reforms of 2011 have removed aquaculture management areas, a challenge for your industry is that many coastal plans are still extremely restrictive.
I have asked the Ministry for Primary Industries to look at ways central government can work proactively with local government to unlock growth opportunities, and ensure protection of your existing aquaculture space.
You’ll all be aware that New Zealand King Salmon’s proposal for a change to the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan and applications for resource consents for salmon farms have cost much more than anticipated.
I have been following the proposal closely and I’m keen to see a positive outcome.
As part of the RMA Phase II reforms, my colleague Environment Minister Amy Adams and I are looking at additional changes to how the RMA operates to guarantee our resources are well managed, while allowing for appropriate sustainable development.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and I are also committed to reviewing the regulatory framework for land-based aquaculture.
Land-based aquaculture is an area with unrealised potential. Later today I will be opening a new grass carp aquaculture facility here in Nelson which is another example of innovation in your industry.
Drafting a plan for the ongoing delivery of settlement obligations under the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act is also a priority.
The plan is being developed in consultation with Te Ohu Kaimoana and iwi. As part of the work in this area, government has already set aside space through gazette notices in Northland, Waikato, Marlborough, and Canterbury for settlement purposes.
Enabling legislation and a good regulatory framework are essential to us achieving our strategic goals.
I have already touched on the importance of innovation in the primary sector.
This Government is committed to funding innovative projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to New Zealand’s primary industries.
The Primary Growth Partnership is the true champion of R&D investment in the primary sector.
So far, around $600 million dollars’ worth of projects have been announced covering just about every facet of our primary sector – from forestry, red meat and wool, to dairy, manuka honey and seafood.
One of the programmes relating specifically to your industry is SPATnz
This project is collaboration between Government and industry. It involves building a hatchery and developing the capabilities to seed a new and improved line of Greenshell mussels. The breeding programme will provide genetically selected spat, which will grow into standard high-quality export shellfish.
In its own way, this project emulates the selective breeding gains we’ve seen in other primary sectors.
The Sustainable Farming Fund is another avenue for R&D investment. This year aquaculture projects have received funding for the first time.
One of these is the Oyster Industry Modernisation Project to counter the devastating effects of the oyster herpes virus.
Other projects funded include Environmental Certification, work on blue mussel over-settlement, and the Kaitaia Spat Working Group to develop protocols for green-lipped mussel spat to ensure the sustainability of the Ninety Mile Beach spat resource.
In conclusion today, I want to reiterate this Government’s alignment with your conference theme - "Looking Forward to Sustainable Growth."
When we came into office, we signalled that we would create a framework that fosters environmentally sustainable aquaculture development while balancing that development with other coastal uses.
This is still very much our goal.
We’re working with many of you here to accomplish this.
We have re-established the Chief Executive’s Forum with central and local government, Maori, and industry representatives to provide guidance and insight into ways we can further increase sustainable aquaculture development.
No-one said this was going to be easy, but then again, worthwhile things hardly ever are. You have this Government’s support because your goals match our goals.