Aquaculture law to get much-needed overhaul 2/3

Pete Hodgson Environment

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Fisheries

Hon Marian Hobbs
Minister for the Environment

AQUACULTURE REFORMS - KEY
FACTS

Summary

The Government has taken a number of decisions on reforms to enable
aquaculture to increase its contribution to the national economy without adverse
effects on the environment, the sustainable management regime for fisheries, or
Treaty settlements.

The proposed changes to resource management and fisheries legislation will
improve the coastal planning process and streamline the environmental assessment
and allocation process for new marine farms.

To allow time for the necessary improvements to be made, there will be a
two-year moratorium from November 28, 2001 on the granting of resource consents
for new aquaculture developments.

The reform proposals

Improvements to the coastal planning regime for aquaculture

The Government will be:

  • Changing the interface between the RMA and fisheries legislation so that
    regional councils are required to consider all environmental effects, including
    the impact that marine farming has on the aquatic environment and the use and
    sustainability of fisheries resources, when they are providing for aquaculture
    in RMA coastal plans
  • Streamlining the application and environmental assessment process for new
    marine farms by providing a single-permit approval process to be operated under
    the RMA
  • Providing regional councils with greater powers to manage and control the
    development of aquaculture by requiring marine farm developments to take place
    within clearly defined Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs)
  • Providing regional councils with additional rule-making powers to deal with
    competition for coastal space by all activities, including the power to limit
    the amount of coastal space that can be applied for within an AMA
  • Providing for regional councils to call tenders for the right to apply for
    coastal permits, including those for individual marine farm sites within each
    AMA, as the default mechanism for the allocation of coastal space
  • Providing for regional councils to retain 50% of the tender money to provide
    appropriate planning incentives and for use in improving the management of the
    coastal marine area.

Recognition of existing fisheries rights holders

The Government will be:

  • Retaining the existing legislative requirement that aquaculture development
    should not have an undue adverse effect on customary, recreational and
    commercial fishing, or place the 1992 settlement of Maori customary and
    commercial fisheries claims at risk.
  • Repealing the existing marine farm permit system that is operated under the
    Fisheries Act 1983, and instead requiring MFish to participate in the RMA
    coastal permit application process by providing regional councils with an
    assessment of any undue adverse effects that aquaculture development may have on
    fishing.
  • Providing in legislation for a trade-off between aquaculture interests and
    commercial fishing rights holders in circumstances where aquaculture development
    would have an undue adverse effect on commercial fishing rights.

Improving the fisheries compliance regime for aquaculture

The Government will be:

  • Replacing the five separate fisheries compliance regimes that are currently
    in place for aquaculture with a single registration and compliance regime under
    the Fisheries Act 1996.
  • Enabling marine farmers to retain wild spat of specified species that settle
    onto structures established within the marine farm area.
  • Providing for the control of pests and disease on fish farms by use of the
    RMA and the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Transition of existing fish farming approvals into the new regime for
aquaculture

The Government will be:

  • Transferring all existing marine farm lease and licences granted under the
    Marine Farming Act 1971 into the new regime, by deeming them to be RMA coastal
    permits and registered fish farms under the Fisheries Act 1996.
  • Providing for all deemed consent holders to continue for the balance of
    their current term plus 14 years, provided that the total term does not exceed
    20 years.
  • Providing all deemed consent holders with a single preferential right to
    apply for a new coastal permit for the sites they occupy once their existing
    consent expires - subject to the applicable regional coastal plan not
    prohibiting marine farming on those sites.
  • Transferring all existing marine farm permits granted under the Fisheries
    Act 1983, and all freshwater fish farm licences granted under the Freshwater
    Fish Farming Regulations 1983, into the new regime by deeming them to be
    registered as fish farms under the Fisheries Act 1996.
  • Providing for all existing spat catching permits granted under the Fisheries
    Act 1983 to continue in effect for the balance of their current term, which in
    all cases is a maximum of five years.

The moratorium

From November 28, 2001 there will be a two-year moratorium on the granting of
resource consents for new aquaculture developments. During this two year period,
no new applications for either a marine farm or for spat catching activities
will be considered.

In recent years, marine farming in New Zealand's coastal waters has increased
significantly. This activity can place significant pressure on the coastal
environment. The future development of such a valuable resource needs to be
managed carefully and the moratorium will allow much-needed planning to take
place.

The moratorium is intended to prevent a further rush of new marine farm
applications, which could pre-empt sensible and appropriate aquaculture
management.

The moratorium will also reduce the risks of over-allocation of space for
marine farming and of new marine farming ventures being approved in
inappropriate coastal areas. Over-allocation could reduce the overall viability
of marine farming, cause negative environmental impacts, and cause a lack of
confidence in the planning process.

Process

A special piece of legislation - called the Marine Farming Moratorium Bill -
will be introduced before the end of 2001 (taking effect from 28 November 2001).

The legislation will:

  • Establish a nationwide moratorium for two years on coastal permit
    applications for aquaculture (including spat catching)
  • Apply to all marine farming applications that have not yet received resource
    consent approval (with some limited exceptions)

The moratorium will prevent councils from processing any new coastal permit
applications until new rules for coastal plans have been developed.

Specifically, the moratorium covers:

  • consideration of new applications, including applications for extensions of
    an area already occupied, and
  • consideration of existing applications for new coastal permits and
    extensions

The moratorium does not prevent an application being made to make changes to
an existing marine farm, as long as the changes are confined to an existing
site. Existing applications for marine farming that are in the process of being
heard, or have advanced further through the process (including appeals) are not
subject to the moratorium.

The moratorium is intended to last for two years, but councils may apply to
the Minister of Conservation to have the moratorium lifted in their region (or
specific parts of their region), if they believe the rules in their regional
coastal plan - or rules they develop before the moratorium expires - adequately
address marine farming issues.

This exception will ensure that where regional coastal plans deal with marine
farming issues appropriately, further development can occur.

There will be no provision in the Bill for an extension of the moratorium.