Aquaculture Reform Bill - 2nd Reading Speech

  • David Benson-Pope
Fisheries and Aquaculture

Mr Speaker, I move that the Aquaculture Reform Bill be now read a second time.

The Aquaculture Reform Bill amends the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Acts 1993 and 1996 to secure a sustainable future for New Zealand’s aquaculture industry.

It defines aquaculture's place in the marine environment and addresses shortcomings in poorly integrated coastal planning, aquaculture and fisheries management regimes.

The Bill balances economic development, environmental sustainability, and community concerns.

A significant aspect of the Bill is that it resolves unfinished business of the 1992 Fisheries settlement. The Bill provides for the full and final settlement of post 1992 iwi claims to commercial aquaculture in the coastal marine area. The Bill deals with the spatial aspects that were left unfinished by the Fisheries Settlement.

The Bill as reported back now includes a number of important changes. I thank the Select Committee for its suggestions - I believe these will improve the Bill.

It is recognised that the existing dual regime under the Resource Management Act and the Fisheries Act could not cope with the overload of marine farming applications. They also lead to higher processing costs, delays, and poor environmental results.

This Bill addresses these issues and lifts the uncertainty that has hung over the aquaculture industry since the 1980’s. It has taken a lot of work and consultation. Much of the Bill's form is a direct result of considerable consultation with industry and local government.

So let's be clear what this Bill means for the aquaculture industry.

The Bill makes the Resource Management Act the main legislation for managing aquaculture. This will enable councils to effectively manage aquaculture and encourage the aquaculture industry to develop in a sustainable way.

Under the reforms, new aquaculture will take place in aquaculture management areas – AMAs - which regional councils will implement through their coastal plans or which can be initiated by a private plan change. AMAs will be created by the plan change process, affected parties and the public will have a say over where aquaculture should be allowed to take place. Industry can initiate a facilitated private plan change, and if successful, will have preferential allocation to the space.

All marine farms with existing coastal permits to occupy space will be deemed to be an AMA, unless that area is identified in the plan or proposed plan as being unsuitable for aquaculture.

Existing farms under an RMA regime will continue for the life of their coastal permits.

The Bill contains transitional provisions to move the existing marine farming authorisations granted under the Fisheries Act or Marine Farming Act into the new regime. Marine Farming Act farms will have RMA consents for 20 years with one right of extension at the end provided their farm remains in an AMA.

Marine farmers will no longer require a marine farming permit under the Fisheries Act 1983. Their activity will be managed through the coastal permit under the Resource Management Act.

Marine farmers will be recognised for the work they undertake in developing plan changes. We also wanted to provide greater certainty for existing marine farmers on renewal of a consent.

When a marine farm resource consent expires, providing it is still within an AMA, and the operation remains similar, the incumbent’s application will be considered first. Where the existing farmer is using the space properly we want to provide that they continue to do so. Certainty brings benefits both to the industry and the community. However, we do not believe rights in perpetuity are appropriate for this, public space.

The Bill seeks to balance competing interests, providing protections for fishing under the quota management system with an undue adverse effects test. The Select Committee has recommended provision of an opportunity for court review of any decisions made under this test. In the interests of transparency and ultimately fairness I agree this is an important addition.

Part 5 of the Bill addresses Maori interest in marine farming. It provides iwi with, where possible, an allocation of an area equivalent to 20 percent of the total marine farming space allocated since 1992, and 20 percent of any new marine farming space.

This proposal is a full and final settlement of Maori claims to commercial marine farming space, post September 1992. This represents a sound basis for Maori and the marine farming sector to move forward.

The Select Committee has recommended that iwi are allocated areas that are more manageable with fewer isolated blocks. This allocation model better fits with the planning process for developing and allocating Aquaculture Management Areas.

Initially, marine farming space allocated to Maori will be provided to Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Limited to hold for direct allocation to iwi – those same iwi who were entitled to receive an allocation of inshore fisheries quota under the 1992 Deed of Settlement.

Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Limited will hold these settlement assets separately from assets it is holding in trust from the Maori Fisheries Act 2004.

It is clear that aquaculture was deliberately left out of the 1992 Fisheries Settlement by the then National Government and has remained the unfinished business of that agreement.

This Bill has emerged from considerable consultation with industry and stakeholders.

Feedback we have received this week from industry has been hugely positive, with both the Marine Farming Association and the New Zealand Aquaculture Council saying the look forward to the lifting of the moratorium.

This Bill supports, clarifies and defines aquaculture’s place in the marine environment. It provides for the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry in New Zealand.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.