Aquaculture conference speech

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, ka nui te mihi kia koutou.

Thank you Bruce for your introduction, and welcome everyone.  

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today to share an exciting milestone in the future of the Aquaculture industry.  

I am proud to be part of a Government that is addressing the long-term challenges facing New Zealand. Whether it is mental health, access to education or lifting people out of poverty.

 To tackle those challenges we also need a strong economy. An economy that works for all, an economy that is delivering jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders.

 We need an economy where more New Zealanders, including here in the regions, get to experience the benefits of economic growth.

 In the past 40 years aquaculture in New Zealand has grown from small beginnings to a significant primary industry, sustainably producing the world’s best seafood such as Greenshell Mussels, Salmon and Pacific Oysters.

 In the Government’s coalition agreement, we recognised the path aquaculture has been on and the potential for the sector to further deliver economic growth for the regions.

 To support both you and this industry, we need to look ahead. Not just to the next election but 15 or 30 years into the future.

 The Government’s vision is for New Zealand’s aquaculture sector to be globally recognised as a world-leader in sustainable, innovative management of aquaculture across the whole value chain.

 To turn this vision into reality, I am proud to be here today to announce the Government’s strategy for aquaculture.

 This strategy sets out Government’s actions to help support the industry to grow sustainably.

 In my time as Minister, I’ve learnt a lot about the potential of the industry and the exciting opportunities it offers New Zealand.

 For me, aquaculture typifies “Brand New Zealand”: you have built on New Zealand’s global reputation for sustainable, healthy and highly valued products. 

 New Zealand already occupies a unique position on the world stage, with a reputation for well-managed, safe, and sustainable food.

 We are on track to reach $1 Billion in annual aquaculture sales by 2025, but we can deliver more.

 Today, from our strong position, we take the first steps towards a more ambitious future.  

 The strategy starts by outlining the future growth pathway for industry.

 We know the world’s climate is changing, global population is growing and natural eco system are under increasing pressure.

 The demand for aquaculture products is increasing but our consumers are also becoming more aware.

 They are demanding sustainability not just at farm level but across the value chain.

 New Zealand’s aquaculture industry is well placed to help meet this demand and to do so sustainably.

 We have the opportunity to strengthen our market position through becoming world-leading in every stage of production.

 The Government acknowledges the growth potential for aquaculture and the strategy sets the ambitious goal of $3 billion in aquaculture sales by 2035.

 That goal builds off a pathway that looks to maximise the performance and value of the existing inshore farm footprint, and to enable the industry to extend farming into the open ocean and into modern land-based facilities.

 This goal might sound ambitious, but I believe this is an achievable goal that we can reach by working together to support a productive, sustainable, resilient and inclusive aquaculture industry.

 Achieving this means building on our successes and embracing new opportunities.

 Aquaculture is a young industry in New Zealand. Its growth will support greater prosperity for our regions, and there is huge scope to add value. 

 Greater productivity will be driven by research and innovation – both through maximising the value from existing farming space, and exploring opportunities for new farming on land, and in the open ocean.

 Open ocean farming will be a key part of our work programme. 

Working with you, across government and with regional councils, we have the opportunity to develop a world-leading framework for managing and delivering on this opportunity, ensuring it integrates with existing uses and values.

 An essential part of this work is to develop biosecurity management practices for open ocean farming, including appropriate separation between farm growing areas.

This issue has been raised as a priority by the industry.

 We will partner with Māori to ensure their values and aspirations are provided for as we plan for open ocean farming.

 We will work with Te Ohu Kaimoana and iwi to ensure that the aquaculture settlement remains fair and equitable, and to assist iwi to effectively participate in the opportunities presented.

 Extending aquaculture into the open ocean, beyond our traditional inshore setting, requires a huge technological shift.

 The recent Open Ocean Symposium in Nelson showcased some of the impressive technological advances being made overseas, as well as those happening here. 

 We will be thinking about the role of Government to support the essential research and development investment in this space.

 In order to invest in greater productivity, you need greater certainty. 

Therefore, I am pleased that the National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture is out for consultation.

This has been a significant piece of work that many of you have been involved in.

 It is a key step towards providing greater confidence to invest in your businesses.

 It is also important to emphasise the growth opportunities within your existing farming practices.

 We are committed to supporting you to grow productivity, derive greater value and explore new products and markets.

 I believe that part of this growth opportunity is to continue building on New Zealand’s brand for highly sustainable products.

 This brings me to the strategy’s second outcome - sustainability.

 Sustainability is at the heart of the strategy.

 Aquaculture is a primary industry leading in environmentally sustainable practices across the value chain.  The strategy commits us to always ensuring aquaculture growth is sustainable and considers other uses and values of our coast and waterways.

 Under this strategy, we want to extend sustainability beyond farming practices.

The industry is already making strides in this respect, with more sustainable processing, packaging, and transport initiatives.

 The strategy includes the development of a transition plan to reduce waste and emissions across the value chain and to achieve net carbon zero emissions by 2050. 

 The Zero Carbon emissions commitment feeds into work both nationally and globally to minimise the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement, which New Zealand is committed to, aims to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 

 Just as New Zealand can lead by example to the world, your industry can lead as an example to other New Zealand growers, producers and industries.

 A sustainable future also means working with Māori, communities, councils and environmental groups, to be smarter about how we plan for our use of the coastal environment.  Not just for aquaculture, but all activities, to ensure genuinely healthy seas.

 In this vein, the strategy also encourages initiatives that support environmental regeneration and improving the health of the environment, such as the fantastic reef restoration projects underway in the Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds.

 The third outcome of the strategy is “Resilient”.  

The strategy recognises that the industry cannot grow without firm foundations. It must be resilient to change.

 I acknowledge that these foundations are facing some challenges, for example the availability and reliability of mussel spat.

 A key objective in our strategy is to support an industry-led spat strategy that will address some key questions you have around supply, quality and better utilisation of your seed stock.

 Climate change is also a considerable challenge.

 Warming temperatures, ocean acidification, and storms will potentially impact your operations, and we are already seeing its impacts both globally and locally. 

 Biosecurity is fundamental to all primary industries. Recent years have shown that aquaculture is not immune to the impacts of pests and diseases.

 The strategy includes measures to strengthen biosecurity management, at a farm-level, such as through the proposed NES, at an industry-level, and more broadly, looking at marine pathways.

 I am pleased to hear that the Government Industry Agreement deed with Aquaculture New Zealand will be signed at this conference tomorrow.

 This is a great accomplishment, and cements the partnership to work collaboratively to prepare for and effectively respond to biosecurity risks.

 The agreement is about working together.

 This brings me to the final outcome of the strategy, which has partnership at its core - inclusivity.

 Partnering with Māori and communities will be key to the success of the strategy.

Together we can deliver meaningful jobs, wellbeing, and prosperity. 

 We have learnt that working in collaboration with communities and stakeholders results in more enduring, more trusted outcomes.

 This strategy recognises the importance of working with iwi to ensure te ao Māori, their values and aspirations, are incorporated into our work programme - whether they be commercial, cultural, or as kaitiaki.

 Fisheries New Zealand has an ongoing role to deliver the Crown’s Aquaculture settlement obligations in a way that enables iwi early opportunities to engage, to invest, and to participate in the business of aquaculture.

In the past year the Canterbury regional agreement has been signed, and the regional agreement for Southland is progressing well.

As you can see the Government’s aquaculture strategy provides a clear and sustainable pathway to growth.

 It sets out Government’s actions, which in partnership with you, alongside Māori, councils, and communities, will support the industry to grow.

 The strategy is the product of careful thinking about the opportunities before us, and the challenges we’ll have to overcome in the next seven or so years.

 I thank those of you in the room who contributed directly and indirectly to bringing this picture together.

 Fisheries New Zealand will lead in implementing the strategy, with support from the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for the Environment. 

 This Government is not shying away from tackling the long term challenges facing New Zealand, along with building a strong economy.

 Our strategy will see aquaculture play a vital role in an economy, which works for all New Zealanders.

 This is a bold vision, because it needs to be. We have an obligation to be bold now for the next generations, to ensure there is a sustainable, productive and resilient future for both the industry and all New Zealanders.

 Thank you.