Speech to Aquaculture New Zealand Annual Conference

  • Nathan Guy
Primary Industries

Thank you for the invite.

I want to start by saying that as Minister I’m committed to a vibrant, profitable and sustainable aquaculture industry for New Zealand.

Your industry is a priority for us as a Government and we have a strategy to support this.

Your goal of reaching $1 billion in annual sales fits in with our goal of doubling the value of primary sector exports by 2025.

Challenges ahead

However, I want to be clear that as a Government, we recognise the current regime hasn’t provided the level of growth we all hoped for.

I’ve met with industry and we all agree on the barriers to growth that need to be fixed.

These include uncertainty around re-consenting of your farms, and the difficulties in obtaining new space to expand, particularly following the Supreme Court decision on NZ King Salmon and interpretation of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.

You are concerned about inconsistencies in the management of aquaculture between councils, and about whether the current regulatory framework can deliver the growth you aspire to.

Growth needs to come from new space, improving the productivity of existing space, and enhancing the value of your products.

I recognise that industry needs a more certain and stable environment in which to invest and grow. You need sensible processes for deciding new applications and, critically, you need to know that your existing farms and production base are protected. Companies need confidence to invest in new growth and value.

You have told me what the possible solutions could look like:

  • Giving the NZ Coastal Policy Statement its intended effect;
  • Extending the term of existing consents while uncertainties are resolved;
  • Providing greater guidance to councils on re-consenting of existing farms, coastal occupation charges and bonds;
  • Using my RMA intervention powers to unlock new space, especially for finfish;
  • And potentially, the development of dedicated aquaculture legislation

I have asked MPI to look at all of these and other options to improve how aquaculture is managed.

MPI and other government officials recently met with industry and local government in the Marlborough Sounds, to discuss these issues at the coal face. Senior officials have heard what you have said, and a cross agency working group has been established to find a way forward. They will report back to Ministers before the end of this year.

There is no easy fix to these issues, however the government recognises the tremendous potential for sustainable growth in the aquaculture industry, and we are committed to working with you and the local communities you operate within to unlock that growth.

RMA reform

As part of this, reform of the Resource Management Act is a high priority.

The RMA must safeguard our natural environment but it’s also a crucial piece of planning legislation.

Our reforms will provide more certainty, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness in resource allocation decisions.

We want to provide greater national consistency and guidance, and improve council accountability.

Already we’ve streamlined and simplified the Resource Management Act for major projects, like Roads of National Significance. Because of that, projects like Transmission Gully can get a decision from a Board of Inquiry within nine months rather than years, as it could take previously.

The challenge now is to extend this to medium and smaller scale projects.

There will be more details to come in the near future and I look forward to hearing your feedback and input, so we can deliver better economic and environmental outcomes for everybody. 

Recreational fishing parks

During the election campaign you would have heard our policy to create two recreational fishing parks covering areas of the inner Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds, as part of a wider reform of marine protection legislation.

These areas will be reserved predominantly for recreational fishing and would be managed for a range of recreational activities by an advisory board of local users.

I want to reassure you that this will not affect commercial aquaculture operators in either of the proposed areas.

A discussion paper on a new Marine Protected Areas Bill, which will include how recreational fishing parks will work, will be out for public consultation by the end of the year. The development of this work is in very early stages. We want to work closely with all sectors, including your industry, to get your feedback and make this work for all New Zealanders.

Building Social licence

Whatever law we work under in New Zealand, communities will still be involved and growth will be harder if they object to your activities. The challenge of building a social license is increasingly common for many primary industries.

Industry need to work closer with the public to show their benefits and environmental credentials. People need to know that you are good stewards of our land and sea.

I’m encouraged to hear about the work Aquaculture New Zealand and MPI are doing to help improve social licence. This work is ground breaking and the lessons learned will be useful across other primary industries. It is important we tell a good story why aquaculture is beneficial for New Zealand, and I’m confident you have a really good story to tell.

A recent Colmar Brunton survey of 2028 people found:

  • 73% of people have a positive perception of aquaculture, and just 5% a negative perception; and
  • 91% of people agree we should look for opportunities to sustainably grow aquaculture.

Identifying and understanding your stakeholders, building relationships with them and sharing your vision with communities will help tell your story.

We won’t persuade everyone that aquaculture is good, but we can help ensure more people are supportive and that accurate information is available to address outstanding concerns.


One good news story is that many highly regarded environmental groups see our aquaculture industry as world leading.  Organisations like WWF now see the necessity for sustainable aquaculture to help feed a growing world population.

The Blue Ocean Institute has assessed our Green lipped Mussel farming as the second most sustainable seafood in the world.  Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” is currently reviewing the sustainability of our salmon farming and I’m confident their report will confirm our salmon industry as world leading. Our oyster farming is also very well regarded.

Maori in aquaculture

Maori are key to regional development – MPI and the Government are committed to supporting Maori agribusiness growth, and aquaculture will play an important role in this space. Maori are keen to use their natural resources to enable cultural, social and economic development.

Maori are already big players in aquaculture and the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Settlement further supports growth in this area.

I’m committed to achieving a successful and enduring settlement. Regional offers have now been made in the key aquaculture growing regions and negotiations are underway.


Another area we need to work more closely together is in biosecurity. This is my number one priority as Minister because it’s so important to all of our primary industries. We’ll never achieve our goal of doubling exports by 2025 if we don’t protect ourselves from unwanted pests and diseases.

Your industry has had a few scares over the last few years and these are wakeup calls. We have seen the impacts of the oyster virus and more recently Perkinsus in mussels.

A recent survey commissioned by Aquaculture New Zealand and MPI on current biosecurity practices in aquaculture shows there are areas for improvement. There are things that you can do better, but also improvements government can make.

It found that industry could look at better biosecurity education of aquaculture farmers and their staff, more assistance with pest identification and improved communication – amongst industry and with the wider public.

On the government side it noted that MPI could improve its relationship with industry, such as spending more time ‘on the ground’.

I am encouraged to hear biosecurity management and a potential Government Industry Agreement (GIA) are topics for discussion at this conference.

A GIA is a formal partnership and agreement between government and industry on how we will work together to respond to pests and diseases that could damage your industry. Already we have the kiwifruit and pork industries on board and I’m keen to see more agreements in the near future.


Investing in research and development will also be critical in reaching our goals for aquaculture. The Government is helping fund over $70 million of work in this area with some major potential gains.

This includes:

  • $13 million in Crown Funding, matched by industry, for the Spat NZ PGP programme;
  • $56 million from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Biological Industries Fund to aquaculture and seafood related projects;
  • $2.6 million from the Sustainable Farming Fund; and
  • $4 to 5 million from NIWA’s core funding for aquaculture.

I was pleased to hear about the success of the “research exchange” the day before this conference. Sharing research results and prioritising future work is essential, and an important feed into commercialising that research. The fact that aquaculture has a medium term research plan gives the Government confidence to invest.

We have a growing number of research facilities dedicated to aquaculture.  These include the Cawthron Institute’s Aquaculture Park, NIWA’s facility at Bream Bay, and the new Plant and Food facility recently built in Nelson. These research providers recognise the potential in aquaculture and we need to make best use of these opportunities.

Our flagship R&D programme in recent years has been the Primary Growth Partnership, with 16 current programmes underway and two completed.

A total of just over $700 million is being co-invested by industry and government, working together.

One of the most recognised programmes is the Precision Seafood Harvesting project. This involves new technology that can select fish by size and species before even leaving the water.

Last week this programme won the Supreme Innovator award at the New Zealand Innovators Awards. In June it was also awarded the People’s Choice Award at the KiwiNet Awards.

Launch of new Degrees in Aquaculture

Around 70 percent of New Zealand’s aquaculture industry is based around the top of the South Island and Nelson is also a major hub of research in this field. Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), with campuses in Nelson and Blenheim, is at the forefront of aquaculture education.

I read an article recently about NMIT’s Salmon Rearing Project, which gives primary and secondary schools the chance to hatch and rear 50 salmon eggs each.

Each school are supplied with tanks, filtration systems, water coolers and quality testing kits. It’s a great innovation and exactly the kind of hands-on experience we need to attract people into the primary industries.

I am very pleased to announce here today that in 2015 NMIT will offer two new higher level aquaculture qualifications– a vocationally-focussed Bachelor of Aquaculture and Marine Conservation, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Aquaculture. Both of these are unique in New Zealand.

These two qualifications are in addition to its successful Diploma in Aquaculture.

The new qualifications are aimed at filling a need for qualified staff in what is a relatively new industry for New Zealand. One of the key recommendations from industry was that the programmes needed to be available part-time and online for those already in employment.

The Bachelor of Aquaculture and Marine will offer students the chance to specialise in one of three areas – production, research or business.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Aquaculture is for those who already have a science degree or relevant industry experience. It will provide advanced, specialised theoretical and technical skills and challenge students to critically assess aquaculture systems.

Tasman Interim Aquaculture Marine Areas

I’m pleased to tell you the Ministry for Primary Industries will be releasing their consultation document to affected parties early next week.

As you know this been a complex and litigious process that has taken almost 16 years. This is far too long.

MPI will consider all submissions, including those already made, before releasing its final decision as early as possible in 2015.


As I’ve outlined today, things are going well for your industry, but the bottom line is that to realise aquaculture’s potential we need good laws and confidence to invest.

We have some clear challenges ahead:

  • To get you a good law that works
  • To deliver the Crown’s aquaculture settlement to Maori.
  • Building social licence and community support
  • Continue to invest in research and development
  • Remaining the world’s best environmental performers; and
  • Strengthening our biosecurity system.

If we can do all of this, then we’ll have a very solid platform to archive our vision of sustainable and strong growth.

There is a lot to do, but I’m committed and confident we can get there.