Luxton Announces Fisheries Package

  • John Luxton
Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control

The Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control, the Hon John Luxton, today announced Cabinet approval to reform the management of New Zealand ’s commercial fisheries. This follows consideration by Ministers of an independent review of the Fisheries Act 1996 by Mr Tony Hartevelt which was commissioned by Mr Luxton earlier this year.

Mr Luxton said today, “Our fisheries resource is very important to New Zealanders, for both economic and lifestyle reasons. We must manage this resource on a sustainable utilisation basis for the benefit of all New Zealanders, now and for the future.

“It is the view of Cabinet that the proposed reforms developed from the reviewer’s recommendations will enable the fisheries sector to maximise its contribution to the economy, while still ensuring fisheries sustainability, allowing the Crown to meet its Treaty and International obligations and significantly enhancing the ability of fisheries stakeholders to contribute to fisheries management" Mr Luxton said.

"I want to make it quite clear that Fisheries sustainability is and will continue to be one of the core responsibilities of Government. This package is the next logical step in development of the Quota Management System.

"It is important that we get these changes right. As yet some of these reforms have not been widely consulted on and as such Cabinet has agreed to a public consultation document being released early next year. I want to encourage all stakeholders in our fisheries, including recreational, commercial, Maori, environmental and interested members of the public to have their input" Mr Luxton said.

"We need this input because these are important changes to improving how we do things in fisheries. We need sensible, robust and lasting solutions.”

The Minister noted that as some parts of the package (outlined below) had been through different extents of consultation so they would go out for further appropriate consultation

"I am keen to see all stakeholders, more involved with decision making in the fishing sector. This is more likely to get sustainable outcomes for New Zealand's important fisheries than the current centralised approach, "he said.


The current management regime provided for by the Fisheries Act 1996 is inconsistent with the government’s objectives in that while it ensures sustainability it does not adequately address the objective of efficient use of fisheries resources to maximise the sector’s contribution to the economy.

As it stands, the Fisheries Act 1996 is very centralised and prescriptive. This means that the Act would have been expensive to implement and inflexible to manage, and may have led to poor management and environmental outcomes.

In addition, the 1996 Act does not allow for the devolution of non-core Government fisheries services (approved in principle by Cabinet), it lacks a robust cost recovery scheme and provides few incentives for fisheries rights holders to take a constructive role in managing their share of the fisheries resource. Aquaculture rights are uncertain and recreational rights are poorly defined.

It was for these reasons that Mr Luxton initiated a review of the Act by Mr Tony Hartevelt. In response to these shortcomings the Independent Reviewer recommended:

  • a fundamental realignment of the roles of Government and and fisheries stakeholders and implementation of transparent and integrated consultation and decision making processes;
  • a simplified and less prescriptive operating regime for the Quota Management System than exists under the 1996 Act; and
  • devolving some responsibility for fisheries management to fisheries rights holders.

Since receipt of Mr Hartevelt’s report, his recommendations have been the subject of intense scrutiny by officials from eleven government departments including the Ministries of Fisheries and Environment, the Department of Conservation, Treasury and Te Puni Kokiri.

Cabinet noted the proposed reforms developed from the reviewer's recommendations and agreed that the core roles of the Government in fisheries management were:

  • ensuring sustainability, as prescribed in the Part II of the 1996 Act; meeting the Crown’s Treaty and International obligations;
  • enabling efficient resource use in the fisheries sector including better specification of the rights of recreational fishers and aquaculturalists so they are compatible to the rights of commercial and customary fishers; and
  • ensuring the integrity of fisheries management systems, (such as criminal enforcement, setting standards and specifications, monitoring and auditing fisheries management plans, and the delivery of services).

Cabinet has also noted the core roles of fisheries rights holders (i.e. commercial, customary and recreational fishers) as managing their harvesting activities within the sustainability and management frameworks determined by the Government.

The detailed legislative reforms that will ensure efficient resource use in this sector are:

  • providing for multi-year, multi-fishery, spatially based sustainability plans developed by the Ministry of Fisheries in consultation with other interested parties;
  • clarification of the roles of the Minister and Chief Executive where the Minister is responsible for determining fisheries services and cost recovery rules and the Chief Executive is responsible for determining the most effective way of delivering fisheries services and applying the cost recovery rules to calculate levies;
  • enabling the responsibility for providing or purchasing required non-core government fisheries services to be devolved to quota owner based organisations;
  • amending both the Fisheries Act 1983 and 1996, to allow the Minister to devolve the responsibility for the provision of registry and other functions to quota based organisations;
  • simplifying the Quota Management System catch balancing regime in the Fisheries Act 1996 and define criteria which will allow for catch limits in some bycatch stocks to be set at sustainable levels below that which would produce the maximum sustainable yield;
  • improving the offences and penalties provisions of the Fisheries Act 1996 to better reflect the nature of offences and ensure more efficient enforcement by amending the provisions of the Act relating to forfeiture, strict liability and the system for dealing with minor offences; and
  • improving the operation of the 1996 Act through a series of amendments to streamline or simply the Quota Management System.

Most of these changes have already been consulted on with stakeholders and agreed to by the Cabinet. The other changes that will simplify the regime have not been consulted on but are largely technical in nature.

The Minister expects to introduce legislation to enact these reforms into Parliament as soon as space can be found on the Parliamentary legislative programme. Any concerns held by stakeholders on these issues will be worked through as part of the Select Committee process.

At the same time the Cabinet has agreed to a public consultation documents to be released early next year to seek the public’s views on those parts of the reforms that have not been widely consulted on.

These are the reforms related to:

  • an amendment to allow the Minister to permit co-management of certain fishstocks, if he is satisfied that a satisfactory fishery managment plan agreed to by stakeholders is in place. This will result in enhanced fisheries management outcomes based on collective decision making by fisheries rights holders;
  • changes needed to improve the specification of aquaculture rights and the interface between the 1996 Act and the Resource Management Act 1991; and
  • changes needed to improve the management of recreational fisheries and give greater involvement of recreational clubs and fishermen..

Co - Management Reforms.

The Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control, Hon John Luxton today announced his intention to release a public discussion document early in 1999 which (among other things) will invite public input into the plan to allow for co- management of commercial fisheries in New Zealand.

The Minister said, “We have two choices here. We can continue with the status quo with its poor behaviour, management and environmental outcomes, or we can create a whole new environment by changing the incentives. That is, give industry the responsibility and hold them accountable.”

The Minister said that if co-management went ahead it would not happen overnight. “We would need enabling legislation to allow devolution in some fisheries when they meet Government standards but in others, where we

cannot be assured of sustainable outcomes, co-management will never be introduced.”

Mr Luxton said that sceptics should remember that co-management is already happening in some instances.

He cited the Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company; the NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council and the Orange Roughy Management Company as examples where this approach is starting to lead to better environmental, and economic outcomes.

The Minister said that he was concerned about the level of misinformation that had recently been promoted regarding co-management.

“This is not about handing over fisheries management to industry as some have been saying. In fact it means the Government retaining control of fisheries management while allowing for more meaningful input by stakeholders, all stakeholders, into the management process,” the Minister said.

Under co-man agement the Minister will remain responsible for ensuring sustainability and protecting the interests of non-commercial fishers.

To achieve these outcomes, the Minister will also be responsible for:

  • setting fisheries outcomes and policies;
  • setting standards and specifications for co-management plans;
  • approving standards and specifications for fisheries services to be delivered; collectively by fishers;
  • approving co-management plans;
  • monitoring and auditing fishers’ collective performance;
  • providing criminal enforcement services to deter fraud and poaching; and
  • ensuring the integrity of fisheries management information.

Quota owners, acting collectively in quota owner associations, would be responsible for:

  • preparing co-management plans (comprising harvest rules and related services to be delivered or purchased by fishers acting collectively) that meet outcomes and standards set by government;
  • delivering or purchasing services approved by the Minister as part of the co-management plans;
  • complying with the provisions of the Fisheries Act and the co-management plans approved by the Minister.

The Minister went on to say that the suggestions that the Government’s proposals will exclude all but industry stakeholders were wrong. “In fact the opposite is true. This process will be more transparent than the present process. All stakeholders will have far more meaningful input into the management of our fisheries than the present system allows for.”

The Minister said that stakeholders would have input into:

  • setting fisheries outcomes, policies and fisheries services;
  • co- management plans; and
  • setting standards and specifications.
  • In addition, results of audits will be made available to all stakeholders to allow for review of the performance of both the industry and government, under co-management.

The Minister concluded by saying that he looks forward to receiving the views of fishing interests and the wider public on the co-management reforms.

Balancing Regime

As part of the Government’s reforms into commercial fisheries management a new balancing regime has been agreed to by Cabinet. The balancing regime is the mechanism whereby a fisher’s catch is balanced against their catching right and is a critical factor in the success of the Quota Management System.

However the system specified by the Fisheries Act 1996 is regarded by officials in the Ministries of Fisheries and Environment to be impractical due to its cost of implementation and because it may provide fishers with incentives to dump fish and misreport catch.

The independent reviewer of the Fisheries Act 1996, Mr Tony Hartevelt agreed with this view and recommended changes to the current balancing regime. Following these recommendations Cabinet has approved the introduction of a new balancing regime which better provides for fishing in mixed species fisheries.

One of the major changes in these reforms will allow for the setting of bycatch TACs (Total Allowable Catches) where some fishstocks which are a minor catch component in a mixed species fishery may be managed at a sustainable level below that which produces Maximum Sustainable Yield.

The Minister said today that, “Maximum Sustainable Yield is only one biological reference point. A stock can be fished at below maximum sustainable yield and still be sustainable. We are not talking here about fishing any stock below sustainable levels. These changes reflect the reality of fishing in a mixed species fishery where it is not possible to manage all stocks at Maximum Sustainable Yield without huge economic impacts.”

The Minister said that current law gave fishers the incentive to “dump” some bycatch species resulting in a loss of valuable information necessary for their sustainable management and economic losses.

The best example is the Hoki Fishery. With a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) of 250,000 tonnes is by far our most important commercial fishery. An unavoidable bycatch in the Hoki Fishery is the Frostfish, which has just been introduced to the Quota Management System with a TACC of 1,600 tonnes. It appears that this quota will be reached long before the Hoki TACC is caught.

“So if we were to close the Hoki fishery when the frost fish TACC is reached then New Zealand would lose the benefits from tens of thousands of tonnes of Hoki fishing. At those kinds of figures we are talking about a lot of jobs and the viability of a lot of small communities that are reliant on those jobs

It’s important to remember that Frostfish would still be managed at a sustainable level, just not at the level which maximises yield .”

The Minister further announced that fishstocks to be managed under a bycatch TAC must fit the following criteria:

  • sufficient information must exist to determine that the fishstock will be maintained at a level that ensures its long term viability;
  • the fishstock is primarily taken as an incidental catch during the taking of larger more valuable fishstocks(s);
  • all practical steps have been taken by fishers to minimise the take of that fishstock, including modifying fishing methods, fishing areas and times of fishing;
  • holders of at least 95% of quota for the fishstock support the proposal and those supporting the proposal have made provision for compensating quota owners who do not support it;
  • there will be no detrimental effects on recreational and customary interests in the fishstock in either the present or immediately forseeable future;
  • the total benefits of setting a bycatch TAC outweigh the total costs;
  • consideration has been given for the need to:
  • commission appropriate research to assess the imact of a bycatch TAC on a fishstock; and
  • implement mneasures to improve the quality of information about the bycatch species, including increased observer coverage and use of log books;
  • consideration has been given to closing areas to fishing to reduce the sustainability risks to the particular stock

Because of these criteria, especially those relating to recreational and customary use, the Minister said that it would be unlikely that any bycatch TACs would be set for inshore species.

The Minister also noted that decisions to take bycatch species at levels below Maximum Sustainable Yield will be made by the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister for the Environment. These decisions will be regularly reviewed.

Cost Recovery

The current cost recovery regime has always been a contentious issue between the Government and the fishing industry especially because of the use of the “avoidable cost” principle; where those who drive the cost of services should pay for them.

The current cost recovery system is also complex with high transactions costs for both stakeholders and the Government. As a result, although it is designed simply as a mechanism to recover costs it has become one of the main drivers for the Ministry of Fisheries’ focus and workload.

In addition the current process is not well integrated with the process that determines fisheries management measures, the setting of Total Allowable Catches.

Criticisms levelled at the cost recovery regime include:

  • it does not necessarily charge those fishers who either benefit from or cause costs to be incurred;
  • the philosophy and principles underlying cost recovery are not generally accepted amongst stakeholders; and
  • the system is extremely prescriptive and, in its current form, will discourage the stakeholder purchase of, or the ultimate devolution of fisheries services.

The independent reviewer and the Primary Production Select Committee both had concerns regarding “avoidable cost”. The reviewer recommended that the cost recovery regime be structured so that:

  • where there is a clear individual purchaser of a fisheries service, the purchaser pays a transaction fee which should recover the marginal cost of providing that service (the remainder being recovered through levies); and
  • where there is no clear individual purchaser , the costs of required fisheries services are split between the fishing industry and the Government (on behalf of non-commercial stakeholders), using the approach that those who benefit from a service pay for it; replacing the current avoidable cost approach.

While the review of the Fisheries Act 1996 was underway Treasury was also conducting a review into charging across the whole state sector. The purpose of this review was to design a consistent set of principles that can be applied across all sectors of the economy so that all sectors are treated the same when it comes to charging for government services.

John Luxton Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control today announced that Cabinet has agreed to defer reform of the current cost recovery regime until the Treasury charging review has been completed.

The Minister expects the results of the Treasury review by December. At this time any changes will be introduced to the Fisheries Reform legislation.