the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission Maori Fisheries Conference

  • John Luxton

E nga rangatira ma
E nga Iwi katoa e noho nei
Tena koutou katoa

Thank you for the invitation to be with you today at this important conference.

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you, and right at the start I want to congratulate the organisers of the Seafood Week for their initiative in bringing together the conferences, activities and events which are taking place this week. I see this kind of cooperation as a positive signal that we will be able to move on constructively to shape a better future for ourselves as an industry and as nation.

I join with my colleague the Minister of Maori Affairs in extending our best wishes to the industry for Seafood Week, and to the participants in this conference I trust that you will find the various activities and discussions helpful to you.

I acknowledge the members of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission for their work, and acknowledge the many challenges which they have faced in seeking to fulfil their mandate and to meet the expectations of their people.

You have asked me to address you on the topic of the future of the New Zealand commercial fishing industry. As a Minister new to this portfolio, its timely for me to do so. I have now had the opportunity to meet and talk with the many parties involved, and to learn more about the issues which face this industry.

And as a former Minister of Maori Affairs I am familiar with many of the issues which your Commission and other parties are currently addressing.

The Minister of Maori Affairs, and not I, is responsible for this Commission, so I have the luxury, if I can use that term, of focusing on the impact of the fishing industry on Maori, and the impact of Maori on the fishing industry.

My theme today is that the role Maori is playing in the industry is transforming the industry. That role is increasing and it is clear that there is great potential for this role to expand still further. I believe that is a positive development, and I share your enthusiasm for Maori economic development through ventures and enterprises which are controlled, directed and staffed by Maori. Such is the potential impact of Maori in the fishing industry that it is worth close analysis by those with an interest in this industry. I am going to use five adjectives to help me describe and discuss the state of the industry and its future.

The first of these is maturing.

The industry has come a long way in the last 20 or 30 years. In 1965 fishing earned New Zealand $5.3 million dollars in exports. Today that figure has risen to one point two billion dollars, plus another one hundred and 25 million in domestic sales. Back then there were just under two thousand people employed; now it's over ten thousand people.

Then the industry largely focused on the inshore fishery with some activity in oysters and rock lobster. Now we have the Exclusive Economic Zone, the fifth largest in the world, and nearly 18 hundred vessels involved in fishing, many in the deepwater fisheries. Back then, the term Orange Roughy was unknown.

In the 1960's and 1970's we mined the sea, and there was an almost total concentration on getting as much volume as we could.

Environmental concerns were practically unheard of, and were scarcely heeded anyway. Maori participation in the industry was low, except for the inshore fishery, and there was no real management plan for the industry.

Now there are over 180 stocks in the QMS system. This represents 85 % of total known fish catch in the EEZ and more will be brought into the system over the next two to three years or so.

Maori participation is rising rapidly to the point where iwi are now estimated to control 55 % to 60 % of the assets of the industry. That's a total of over 5 hundred million dollars - a sizeable investment by any standards, and the significance of this for Maori economic development is certainly not lost on the Government.

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission asked for a report on iwi commercial fishing enterprises. This was undertaken by Boyd Fisheries Consultants and Gary Bevin, a consulting economic analyst.

Their report stated that despite very poor trading conditions, iwi had established a strong platform for future development in the fishing industry.

In spite of some difficulties being faced by the industry, the report concluded, and I quote

``over 50 new iwi fishing enterprises have been established since 1990 under the initial stimulus of the interim fisheries settlement. Surveys of the iwi fishing operations have revealed that most operations are currently generating surpluses,''

The authors also commented that jobs were also being created in significant numbers by the iwi fishing enterprises.

Although some in the industry initially viewed the arrival of iwi operators as a competitive threat and as a source of instability, the Government sees these trends as very positive development, not just for the industry, but also for the country.

As a country we have already come a long way and have learnt much.

Our system of quota management was a world first, and despite the many arguments which people may have had, it has worked. It has worked to protect and enhance the fishery and the people in it, to enable the Crown to honour its obligations as a treaty partner, and to progress the nations economic growth.

We are now evolving away from a centralised administrative approach to a more holistic approach. That approach is set out in the Fisheries Act 1996, and explicitly incorporates the concept of sustainable utilisation into our law.

Just in passing it is worth noting that the Quota Management System helped facilitate the settlement of Maori Treaty rights in the commercial fisheries.

This is because QMS created property rights through the Individual Transferable Quota system or ITQs. This helped both Crown and Maori to fulfil Maori claims on commercial fishing rights, firstly through the Maori Fisheries Act of 1989 and then through the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act of 1992.

The new Fisheries Act, which was passed in 1996, is going to take some time to bed down. Making sure the Act is implemented smoothly has been identified by the Ministry as one of its major tasks in the next three to four years.

And I am aware that there is a project steering group, including representatives of stakeholder groups, which is controlling and monitoring this process.

The Act requires more participation, consultation and communication by all parties. That's good; it's a sign of a healthy and mature industry that we have agreed on a regime which requires us to talk about issues, resolve our differences, and build a common vision of the future.

It is important to remember though that decisions do have to be made. It is also important to remember, and speaking from experience, that consultation does not mean that you have been consulted if the outcome is what you wanted, but if that outcome if different than your desired outcome, then you werent consulted. It seams to me that sometime people get this issue a bit mixed up.

The second word I would use is challenging.

Clearly there are a number of important issues facing the industry, which everyone involved in, or affected by, the industry is going to need to address over the next few years.

The Fisheries Act 1996 elevates the concept of sustainable utilisation, and backs it by requiring consideration of environmental and information principles.

All decisions on fisheries management must now be based on the best information available, and we must now consider the impact of fishing activities on the wider environment.

Where we don't know enough about a fishery to make a good decision about how it is to be managed, then the government is required to take a cautious approach.

The new Act makes some other things clear as well. Rather better than before, it defines the interests and role of Maori. Maori have three distinct interests in managing fisheries. First of all, under the Principles of the Treaty there is a right for Maori to be involved in discussions about sustainability, both as a principle and in the application of the principle. This gives an opportunity for Maori advocacy of Maori interests and for Maori values to be explicitly taken into account in setting overall catch limits.

Secondly, there is the non commercial fishery, which includes recreational and customary rights of various kinds.

Thirdly there is the interest of Maori as players in the commercial fishing industry, and in this respect, I see your interests as akin to those of other commercial fishers.

Illegal take: I would like to note at this stage that as the new Minister of Fisheries I have a very strong dislike of people taking resources that they are not legally entitled to. Recently we have had problems with Paua poaching and problems on some of our beaches. Likewise with Crayfish.

But it has also been brought to my attention that in some suitations customary rights appear to have been used as a front by some people for illegal fishing activity. This concerns me greatly.

I beleive it is important that we have clearly defined rights and that they are adhered to. Under customary rights Maori do have a legal entitlement. It is important that all of you here today show strong leadership among your people to ensure that we are able to sustaiably utilise our fishery resource to the benefit of all New Zealanders. As you know, under Section 21 of the 1996 Fisheries Act, I have to take into account ``all other mortality to that stock caused by fishing'' when setting or varying any total allowable commercial catch. It is therefore in all commercial fishers interests to help ensure, in any way that they can , that the illegal catch is minimised.

Having a clear understanding of the respective interests is going to be a continuing challenge for all parties.

This takes on added importance when we move to involving stakeholders - including Maori - in making management decisions about fisheries.

In my view the next area which we need to tackle is the efficient allocation of resources, and we need to address that issue with the same vision and commitment which we brought to bear on the concept of sustainable utilisation.

Fisheries rights holders need to take more responsiblity in protecting and managing their own rights. Government cannot do it all by itself.

Sustainability is not the easiest term to pin down. My own working definition is satisfying current needs in ways which don't threaten future generations.

It took nearly five years to work though the policy which is embodied in that piece of legislation, and in future fisheries management decisions are to be made in a consultative framework.

The commercial fishing industry is always concerned about costs. In this respect the industry's approach is the same as that followed by the Government. We wish to avoid levying people for activities which are unnecessary or unhelpful.

In this context, the government's policy is that fishers should pay the full costs of their fishing activities. I believe there is little disagreement with that principle.

But perhaps how the full cost of fishing activities is calculated is a matter of some debate.

And in that context I have noted the comments just last week (Wednesday 7 May) from Sanfords that the Government's current changes could not be sustained. We are well aware of the importance of this issue to the industry. As you will be aware the current cost recovery regime is being reviewed by the Primary Production Select Committee.

I am keen to see compliance costs for this - and other industries - reduced to the minimum level required. There is simply no point in conmitting resources that provide no economic or community benefit.

Equally to make good decisions does require good information, and we do need to know what is happening out there in the ocean, and what impact fishing activities are having. So my enthusiasm to slash compliance costs is tempered by the need for realism.

The third word I would use to describe the state of the industry is changing.

The nature and character of the industry is changing. Arguably this has always been the case, but I believe that there are going to be significant elements of change in the next few years.

I have already referred to the new Fisheries Act and to the increasing role of Maori in the industry.

It is important for the industry to understand the various rights and responsibilities which the new Act confers on various parties.

For instance as Minister I am required to consult representatives of commercial, Maori, recreational, and environmental interests when making decisions about allowable catches in any fishery in a particular year.

It's a fair bet that not all those interests will necessarily agree, so getting agreement will be one major - on going - challenge. And you'll be aware, I think, that under the Act, that when a TACC is being set, the Minister is required to allow for non commercial interests. This means setting a quantity for non commercial parties, including the recreational interests.

Getting certainty of outcomes is a major benefit of the new regime; everyone will know where they stand as a result of going through the process of making decisions about fisheries management, but I must say that in some areas, it is going to be a challenging task.

You'll be aware of the legal challenges to reductions in quota in the Auckland snapper fishery, and the Chatham Islands rock lobster.

As Minister I can certainly say that I appreciate the depth of feeling that some of these issues have generated. And I can assure you of the Government's firm desire to resolve these in a win/win way.

Any analysis of the industry would also note the increasing diversification of fish stocks being processed, the widening range of markets to which product is being sold, and to the rapid growth of aquaculture.

The coalition agreement does not refer to aquaculture, but I have assured representatives of this one hundred and 50 million dollar industry that the Government is very interested in seeing it grow and succeed.

And I am happy to repeat that reassurance today, as this section of the industry is one where Maori participation has been growing rapidly, and a growing aquaculture industry is of some importance to you and the people you represent.

And in that respect I was very pleased to see that a whole day in this Seafood Week is being devoted to aquaculture. The fourth word I would use is strategic.

I mean this particularly in the sense of vision and direction.

The Ministry of Fisheries has published a very useful document - Changing Course: Towards Fisheries 2010. It was published last September and in the introduction the Chief Executive says that the Ministry is setting out

``the direction it (that is the Ministry) believes should be taken in managing our fisheries and the strategy which would best advance that direction.''

This clearly makes the document pretty important to those in the industry or with an interest in its activities.

The Ministry itself is a new organisation, but it has already made significant progress in defining its direction and how it will achieve its strategic purpose - the sustainable utilisation of New Zealand's fisheries resources.

I see from the programme that Warwick Tuck was with you yesterday afternoon.

Let me say a bit more about the Changing Course publication. The Ministry wants to build agreement about the future direction of the industry - in all its aspects.

It's called its goal Fisheries Twenty Ten.

And it's set up quite an elaborate and sophisticated process for consultation and participation[ in order to build that agreement.

The document Fisheries 2010 - when it is eventually produced - will be the outcome of this process.

It will set out agreed long term goals and how we are going to get there.

It's a bold approach to involving all stakeholders in determining the future direction of the fishing sector. It reflects a clear understanding and belief that we have to learn how to work together. And it enshrines the principle of sustainable utilisation in a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

As Minister I endorse that principle, and I want to reinforce to you its pivotal importance in making decisions about the fishing sector.

If you have not yet had a chance to get your heads around the Changing Course publication I urge you to do so.

Because the Ministry is offering you the opportunity to take part in shaping the future of fisheries management.

Which brings me to my fifth word - cooperative.

The Changing Course publication, the new Fisheries Act and for that matter the new political climate following from the introduction of MMP require much more consultation, communication and ultimately cooperation than previously.

This industry has to cooperate to survive, grow and prosper. That's true of many industries, but it is particularly true of this one, for one reason, if for no other.

There has to be fish in the sea in order for there to be a commercial fishing industry, whether you are a large or a small player.

There has to be fish in the sea in order for recreational fishers to have the thrill of catching them, and there has to be fish in the sea for Maori to be able to exercise their customary rights, and for the Crown to honour its commitments as a member of the international community.

And we have to ensure that there will still be fish in the sea this year, next year and for the years to come in order for their to be a healthy fishing sector into the next century.

That means we all need to learn how to get along with each other, to listen, to understand, negotiate, compromise, find good solutions to the issues we face, and not to think that any of us can prosper at the expense of the other players. Because we can't. In short we have to cooperate, because if we don't there won't be a healthy industry to pass onto our children and their children.

That brings us back to the concept of maturity which I talked about earlier, and it emphasises the fundamental importance of the concept of sustainable utilisation, which is at the heart of the Fisheries Act and the new role of the Ministry of Fisheries.

Let me sum up: you ask what is the future of the industry. My short answer is that I see a period of evolution and devlopment of the new regime. I see continuing diversification and development in a period of prosperity, and I see a period of working through the issues which divide us at present, and hopefully of settling them.

I see it as an exciting future for this industry - both commercially and as a strategic sector of the New Zealand economy.

The economic contribution of the industry to New Zealand's prosperity is set to continue. Our exports will grow in both volume and value. That's good news for those who invest their capital and their labour in the industry.

I see more diversification and the growth of new sectors and new enterprises, particularly by Maori. There is going to be continuing opportunities to add value to our fish market. Secondly, a mutual commitment to sustainable utilisation in a healthy aquatic ecosystem will mean that we can continue to enjoy the benefits in future years.

And here I mean benefits which include, and also go well beyond the purely financial. There are clear environmental benefits in having a properly managed and healthy biosphere as well as many community and recreational benefits from having enough fish in the sea to meet many needs.

If you want a real answer to the question about the future of the industry, look around. Many of the people who are the future of this industry are here. Others will visit and take part in this conference and the other events of this week. Others, customers, residents, voters, environmentalists are listening carefully and watching closely.

For our part the Government of which I am a member has a clear commitment to the provisions of the Fisheries Act and the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act, and the introduction of new species into the quota management system.

We have a clear commitment to the strategic objective of sustainable utilisation within a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

We have a clear commitment to implementing over time the provisions of the Fisheries Act.

We are also committed to seeing that the fishing industry develops and grows and continues to make an important contribution to the prosperity of the nation. That's vital.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is an important conference at an important time in the evolution of the industry. I urge you to come to grips with the issues, to understand the views and perspectives of the various other parties involved, and to seek solutions which enable all interests to be accommodated.

We can and should face the future with confidence that if we build a climate of trust and understanding, that if we learn how to work together, that if we achieve mutually beneficial solutions, we can all prosper and share in a bright future.

Certainly there are issues to be resolved, but remember that we have faced and conquered big challenges before. I am sure that this industry can do so again. I wish you well in your discussions and deliberations, and I trust that your conference, that of the other associations in the industry, and Seafood Week as a whole, will be a success. Thankyou.