Aquaculture law to get much-needed overhaul /3

Pete Hodgson Environment

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Fisheries

Hon Marian Hobbs
Minister for the Environment

28 November
2001

Aquaculture law to get much-needed overhaul

The Government has agreed on a package of legislative reforms providing for
the sustainable development of aquaculture, Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson and
Environment Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

A bill to implement the new management regime is to be introduced to
Parliament in April next year.

"Shortcomings in the current law are creating difficulties in managing
aquaculture," the ministers said. "It is important for both the environment and
marine farming that the approval process for marine farms is made clear and
effective."

Mr Hodgson said there was immense potential for growth in aquaculture, which
is already worth more than $280 million a year in sales and more than 7000 jobs.
"This is a valuable and highly promising industry for New Zealand and we have
identified measures to support its sustainable development without undermining
the rights of others."

The proposed changes will enable regional councils to restrict aquaculture to
clearly defined Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs). Development approvals
within these areas will be streamlined by providing a single-permit process.
Individual sites within an AMA will be tendered under the Resource Management
Act (RMA).

"Regional councils will be responsible for considering both environmental
effects and fisheries matters in providing for aquaculture under coastal plans,
and will have greater powers to manage and control development," Ms Hobbs said.
"This will provide much better integration between coastal planning, aquaculture
development and fisheries management."

The Ministry of Fisheries will retain a significant role in the application
process, identifying any adverse effects on customary, recreational and
commercial fishers.

Other changes proposed will see all fish farms registered under the Fisheries
Act 1996 and all existing marine farming leases, licences and permits moved into
the new regime.

To avoid a further speculative rush for space, a two-year moratorium on the
granting of resource consents for new aquaculture developments will take effect
immediately, allowing time for the new legislation to be drafted, introduced and
passed and for better resource management planning to take place.

"Already the lack of clear law and effective processes governing aquaculture
has produced an overload of marine farm applications, causing higher process
costs and poor environmental results," the ministers said. "If too much sea is
allocated to marine farming it will encroach on environmentally and
recreationally valuable areas. Marine farming also suffers if approvals exceed
carrying capacity."

The proposed reforms follow a consultation process run last year by the
Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry for the Environment that attracted 242
submissions. The majority favoured managing aquaculture under the RMA, although
a number of groups also favoured retaining a strong role for the Ministry of
Fisheries to ensure that Treaty obligations and the rights of customary and
commercial fishers were not put at risk.

The ministers have also made sure that the aquaculture reforms are consistent
with the vision for marine resource management identified by the Ministerial
Advisory Committee on Oceans Policy.

Mr Hodgson said the Oceans Policy consultation process had shown that New
Zealanders want integrated management of the marine environment, with
decision-making they can have confidence in.

"New Zealanders want our oceans managed in a way that minimises conflict and
costs by accommodating a wide range of values and perspectives. The aquaculture
reforms are a significant step in that direction."