Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture)
: I move,
That the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3) be now read a second time. The bill is a central feature of a package of reforms intended to reduce costs, delays, and uncertainty, and to promote investment. The bill will reform aquaculture legislation after a decade of roadblocks and missed opportunities. It will provide an efficient legislative framework to enable marine-based aquaculture to fulfil its economic potential. This will advance the Government’s economic growth agenda through increased export earnings and the creation of new jobs. At the same time, the Government recognises that growth in aquaculture must be environmentally sustainable and balanced with other uses of our coastal space, including commercial and recreational activities.
There is growing worldwide demand for protein foods, including those farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner. New Zealand’s aquaculture industry is well placed to meet that demand. New Zealand is a very small player on the global stage but has some considerable advantages: a robust resource management framework, outstanding water quality, strict food safety and biosecurity rules, and strong research and development capability backed by Government funding. All these position New Zealand well to be a supplier of high-value, high-demand products.
The Primary Production Committee reported the bill back to the House on 9 May. It recommended that the bill proceed with some amendments. I agree with the proposed amendments and consider that they will improve the workability of the new law. I thank the members of the committee and its chair, Shane Ardern, for their work. I also thank the many people and organisations who took the time to make submissions on what is a very complex bill, and contributed to its development through earlier consultation processes. I am particularly proud of the Ministry of Fisheries and its staff for the way they have worked with the industry and with interested parties both inside and outside Parliament.
The central change to the planning process removing the requirement for aquaculture management areas will streamline planning and processes, and put aquaculture on an equal footing with other activities in the coastal marine area. Removing the requirement for aquaculture management areas does not mean, at all, uncontrolled growth. In fact, councils will still be able and encouraged to concentrate aquaculture activity where it is appropriate, and exclude it from areas where it is not appropriate. In all cases, aquaculture applicants will still need to apply for resource consent through the Resource Management Act processes.
Marine farming will continue to occupy only a small fraction of our coastal space. This bill will enable careful, managed growth. Growth will also come from existing production, which will be increased in value, making better use of existing space from research and innovation. New space is only one part of the equation. Our encouragement of farming high-value finfish species as well as sessile shellfish species is part of that story.
The proposed power enabling the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to amend aquaculture-related provisions in regional and coastal plans attracted comment from many submitters. The committee has recommended changes to clarify the scope of the proposed power and to more clearly establish the requirement for public and iwi consultation. I fully commend and fully support the committee’s recommendations. The undue adverse effects test, which protects the interests of commercial, customary, and recreational fishers, will also remain. The committee has recommended changes to clarify and improve the aquaculture decision and undue adverse effects test processes. Those changes will allow the chief executive of the Ministry of Fisheries to consult on preliminary decisions where he or she considers this is warranted. The proposed time frame within the judicial review of an aquaculture decision that may be sought is extended from the 15 days proposed in the original bill to 30 days. I agree that this is a sensible change.
Aquaculture industry submissions raised a number of matters relating to the security of tenure. This is a complex issue, and it involves balancing the industry’s desire for certainty—which is entirely understandable—with the need to ensure that the continued use of a public resource for aquaculture remains appropriate. The bill as introduced aimed to reduce the time and cost associated with the re-consenting process by limiting the range of information that applicants must provide. However, it is unlikely that this, in practice, would achieve much at all, and the Primary Production Committee has therefore come back and recommended the deletion of the relevant provision, which I support. I consider that re-consenting would be better addressed on a comprehensive basis for all sectors, not just marine farming, and that will happen through the latter stages of phase two of the Resource Management Act reforms.
I said when I introduced the bill that the Government was committed to ensuring that the Crown continues to uphold the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Settlement Act, and this bill retains the core components of that settlement.
The proposed changes to the Tasman and the Waikato regional coastal plans will enable the industry to diversify into higher-value species, and will enable some expansion of existing farms in the Waikato. This will provide much-needed stimulus to investment and to growth.
This bill addresses problems with the current law, and streamlines processes. I am very pleased with the work of the select committee. Committee members picked up issues that I had overlooked, and I appreciate their input. I commend this bill to the House. Thank you.
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour)
: It is an honour to be the first speaker for the Opposition in the second reading of the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill
(No 3). This is the third round of aquaculture amendment legislation in this House, and it may not be the last round.
I agree with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture that the intent of the Primary Production Committee, the Government, and, indeed, the Opposition is to facilitate the growth of aquaculture across the country. In the early stages we saw growth particularly in the green-lipped mussel area, and salmon farming was going quite well. We then went through a period where there was a rush for space. So we arrived at a situation in Tasman and Golden Bay in particular where there was a gold rush, effectively, for space, on the understanding that it would be valuable in the future, and that those who controlled the space would control the industry. A little like in respect of fishing quotas, it was considered that the value would be in the space, not necessarily in the production. That created a dilemma that the last Labour Government attempted to resolve.
I was, and intend to be after the next election, the MP for West Coast - Tasman. I saw the ratepayers of the Tasman District paying a lot of money to try to resolve an issue that was, effectively, an industry battle. The previous Labour Government, seeing this as a potential dilemma around the country, introduced the previous aquaculture legislation. We did not get it quite right. It was a very complex task, as the Minister rightly said about this legislation. We attempted to create aquaculture management areas that would have allowed and facilitated the passage and growth of aquaculture in those areas quite easily. The problem was that we had allocated responsibility to regional councils as the community organisations rightfully elected in most areas—except, of course, Canterbury—where local values, local aspirations, and local concerns for the environment would be considered along with applications for economic development in the form of aquaculture. We thought regional councils were the right place to park this responsibility. As it turned out they had neither the expertise nor the inclination—in hindsight, of course—to progress the space. So we did not see a huge amount of growth in aquaculture.
The lack of growth happened to coincide with a period of declining demand in the market, and some in the industry would say that it actually allowed the industry time to mature and avoid the gold rush in production that we have seen in other primary industries, which effectively led to the market collapse of prices. In some ways, I guess, the changes that we made did not quite work out the way we hoped, but they have allowed time for the industry to mature.
In making submissions on this bill the submitters, I think, came with the best of intent. They knew the pitfalls around space, around environmental safeguards, and the rest of it, and I hope we have arrived at a better outcome. There are and were some concerns that Labour had when the bill was introduced—for example, in respect of the Minister’s right to override coastal management plans. We have seen that with the National Government before, when it overrode the Canterbury Regional Council. So we did not underestimate the potential for inappropriate interference by a Minister in respect of a coastal management plan that might have been hard won, hard fought, and negotiated with all local people. We have recommended some changes, we looked at the issues, and the select committee, under Mr Shane Ardern’s chairmanship—and I think he always does a very, very good job—made some adjustments to make sure that if the Minister does intervene, it is for the good outcome of protecting environmental issues as well as facilitating economic growth.
As I said, I think this amendment is round three. But we were reminded through the submission process that in Tasman and Golden Bay there is an ongoing battle—in fact, the ongoing battle—between industry players, and that will go on for another 3 years. I am very, very sad about that because it is a waste of money. If people in the fishing industry—fin fisherman, quota owners, or aquaculture developers—have as much
money as that to throw around, then they should give it back to the Government for health and education, or they should pay some more tax. If they want to throw it around the courts rather than sit down and negotiate a sensible solution, then I guess Parliament will continue to be frustrated by the actions of the fishing industry.
The second concern we had was in respect of the undue adverse effects test, which has been at the heart of the problem here. To go back to my reference to Tasman and Golden Bay, and the crisis in the courts that led to our changes, I say that those undue adverse effects remain because those who hold the quota believe they have absolute rights not only to the quota and its quantum but to all the water space in which they can catch their fish. I think that goes one step too far, but they have lawyers who are happy to challenge that in court on a regular basis.
When someone applies for space, they will have to go through a Resource Management Act application and they will have to look at all the environmental outcomes of that application, which relates to the progress we are making in this bill. At the same time, the applicant can sit down and talk with other industry players—those who have quotas and those who have an interest; in Tasman and Golden Bay it relates to scallop fishermen who have scallop quota, fin fish, and applicants who are most likely to forward a proposal in respect of green-lipped mussel. Those applicants will work with the Resource Management Act process and hopefully arrive at an agreed solution—that is, that they can mitigate any effects on the quota or on their rights, that they can reduce the environmental impacts, and that they can allow each other to operate side by side. I have absolutely no doubt that that can happen in every single case—absolutely no doubt. The issues of whether one gets to saturation point in, say, the Marlborough Sounds will be environmental issues dealt with under the Resource Management Act. But in respect of the undue adverse effects test, fishing industry participants working alongside one another should be able to negotiate. It is pigheadedness, it is arrogance, and it is the worst of commercial behaviour that cannot allow them to see the vision and the wisdom of negotiating a sensible solution. I guess it comes down to corporate pride, as well. The committee hopes that the changes we made to the undue adverse effect test will allow a fair process, although I do not want to get bogged down in the detail. We stopped what we thought was the industry’s proposal to have domination by the big players, and we wound that back a little bit. All the small quota holders, owners, and fishermen will have a fair say in any application.
The undue adverse effects test has been at the heart of the hold-up in the whole of aquaculture development, and will remain at the heart of the hold-up if the industry chooses to leave it that way. However, the changes we have made will provide a sensible solution to allow coastal management plans developed by regional councils to give some guidelines, to allow for individual applicants to apply for resource consent, given the environmental guidelines and safeguards, and to allow the applicant to work through the undue adverse effects test with other industry players. They can then say that they share the space, that it is public domain, and that all can benefit from it.
If we get this bill right, we will see sensible aquaculture development and growth in this country. We need those export earnings. Labour has been happy to work with the Government on the bill. The concerns we had at the time of the bill’s introduction have been addressed through the select committee process. Therefore, Labour is happy to support the passage of the bill through the House.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: I start by thanking the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Opposition spokesman for their complimentary remarks about the process that the Primary Production Committee went through. We had a very simple task, in my view, despite the complexity of the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3). We had to find a way forward to
enable the growth of aquaculture in New Zealand. We had to create legislation that provided the framework for an enabling situation where the industry could start to grow.
As part of the committee’s research, we bid for and won a parliamentary trip to South Australia, where we were able to examine what had happened there. What surprised me was that one-third of the South Australian economy is now provided by the export, development, and processing of aquaculture. That industry did not exist about 15 years ago. A large number of the people who have invested—in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars, and certainly large sums in the case of individuals—are ex - New Zealanders. A large percentage of that intellectual property and that investment had been made by them. They had found the process in New Zealand frustrating and had moved to South Australia so they could make progress with the industry they love.
The select committee received the bill on 16 November 2010. The closing date for submissions was 11 February 2011. We received and considered 120 submissions from a wide sector of the industry, from some pan-industry groups, and from individuals, plus interested parties or stakeholders in the use of coastal and marine areas and waterways. Not everyone was happy with the notion of providing an opportunity for aquaculture to grow. Some people, I suggest, may have submitted that the industry is a blight on society, and that we should stop it at all costs. The committee did not agree with that view, but in considering it we certainly played a big role in considering the environmental and local government concerns in terms of finding a way forward.
The aquaculture industry believes that it can grow—and I believe it is right—to at least a $1 billion industry by 2025. As the previous speaker, Damien O’Connor, said, the country desperately needs growth in our export industries. If we look at what is happening internationally, with a growing world population and the demand for high-quality protein foods around the world, we see that a very well-managed and considered environmental production system is the space to be in. There are only three areas where New Zealand can produce those high-quality proteins: fish is one, meat is another, and dairy products are the third.
I am sure that this legislation will bring about an opportunity for a large sector of the economy to grow. Hopefully, the bill will remove some of the roadblocks that have stymied the industry so far. The previous speaker talked about the undue adverse effect test. That part of the bill was the most complex, and probably we struggled with it the most. Trying to strike a balance between development and unforeseen consequences, one might say, in terms of what might happen or might not happen to the environment, is always a judgment call.
There will be those who argue, of course, that we went too far in enabling aquaculture to develop, and others who say we did not go far enough. In that regard, I think the select committee has put its best foot forward. I am very, very confident that what we have achieved will allow for a far better framework for the industry to work within and for development to take place.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call on the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3). As a member of the Primary Production Committee, I thank the member who has just taken his seat, Shane Ardern, for the very professional way in which he chaired that committee. Certainly, I believe that the select committee process on this legislation was able to make significant changes to it, which really showed the value of the process. I note that not all select committees are fortunate enough to have a chair like Mr Ardern, who can facilitate that process and ensure—
Craig Foss: The FEC has one.
MOANA MACKEY: The Finance and Expenditure Committee has one, Mr Foss. That is good to know, thank you. I really want to pay credit to Mr Ardern as a very, very good chair of that select committee. I also thank the officials who worked on this.
Hon Tau Henare: That’s not what you said last week.
MOANA MACKEY: The member should not believe anything I say to him. I thank the officials who worked on this very technical legislation, and also all the submitters who took the time to come before the committee and present their points of view. It is important to note that there certainly was not unanimous support for this legislation, and that a large proportion of New Zealand society remains very concerned about what this might mean in the future for the waterways that New Zealanders enjoy and want to be able to continue to enjoy. I guess, as my colleague Damien O’Connor alluded to before, sometimes we will have to wait and see where this legislation takes us. Certainly, the previous Labour Government introduced legislation in order to try to better facilitate the development of aquaculture as a serious industry in New Zealand, and we have no problem admitting that it did not work. The process that we set out did not result in any new space being created. The processes were obviously too complex and too costly, and that is why we were more than happy to support this legislation and do what we can as an Opposition to facilitate the development of this very important industry.
I will also note, however, that in 2008 we put legislation into the House to amend our own law, which we had acknowledged was not working in the way we had intended or hoped. Perhaps that legislation could have been picked up and put through a lot sooner than this one has, but that has been and gone, and here we are with this legislation. I certainly hope it will have more success in furthering aquaculture developments than the previous legislation did.
In saying that, I think there remain a few areas in this bill where we do have some concerns. We hope that these will be able to be addressed in the Committee stage of the legislation. I think probably one area is the 20-year minimum for aquaculture consents. This basically says that the minimum consent period will be 20 years, the maximum 35 years. We are told that that is intended to create a level of certainty for those who want to invest in the sector. If someone who wants to invest in aquaculture wants a shorter minimum period, then they can apply for that, but the council itself cannot do anything to request a shorter consent period.
This seems to be very limiting on councils. We need to remember that councils in New Zealand are democratically elected to represent their communities. I sometimes get a little bit concerned when I hear people in speeches talking about councils as though they are just these undemocratic roadblocks to development. The fact is that they are elected by the people of their region to represent them and to make those decisions, and I start to worry when we start tying up councils in red tape from Wellington in a one-size-fits-all type of approach, which may not be appropriate. We can think of a number of scenarios where a local council representing the views of its constituents might have concerns over a 20-year time period for a consent in a particular area. It was an issue that was raised by some of the submitters, and there did seem to be, I have to say, a level of distrust at the idea that we have to tell councils that it would be a 20-year minimum period and they should get no say in that, despite the fact they are the ones elected to make those decisions.
It will be interesting to see how that goes, but I feel we could have shown a little bit more confidence in local government and our elected regional councils to make those decisions, and to make them in the best interests of their communities. It seems to me that a one-size-fits-all 20-year minimum period is not the best way to do that.
It could also have a number of unintended consequences, because councils may indeed act far more conservatively when it comes to approving applications. If there is a
20-year minimum and they have concerns, whereas with a 10-year minimum they might not have had concerns, they may just decide that they will say no. That may be one of the unintended consequences, which may stop, again, further aquacultural development. I hope this does not end up being a kind of false economy, and that we do not end up with councils not feeling confident enough to allow projects to go ahead. Twenty years is a long time and it will restrict the ability of future councils to manage their coastal areas, and that might not be something today’s councils will feel comfortable doing.
I also note that there is a kind of conflict involved in putting in a 20-year minimum provision into these consents to create certainty, but then giving a new regulatory power to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to just completely override regional coastal plans. Any good that is being done in terms of creating certainty with the 20-year minimums will be undone by an overarching, sweeping power that the Minister will have to just override the regional coastal plan. That will create an enormous amount of uncertainty. I do not think we have heard a really good explanation or convincing argument as to why the Minister needs such sweeping and broad powers.
To give an overview, this provision gives the Minister broad powers to change, introduce, or remove provisions relevant to the management of aquaculture in a regional coastal plan without a requirement to consult the community affected, although he or she is required to consult the relevant regional council. This comment has no bearing on the current Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, but I feel that that is an excessive power under this legislation. I would like to hear from someone the arguments as to why it is absolutely necessary. If it is to bypass the fact that there will be contentious issues over the use of aquaculture space, those issues will not go away just because we give a Minister a sweeping power to ignore the community. In fact, that could end up being counter-productive, creating far more issues, again putting councils in a position where they feel they have to pick between their community and these developments, and end up being far more conservative in the exercise of that power.
When Treasury is horribly opposed to something National is doing, we probably need to take note. Treasury pointed out that that power exists within the Resource Management Act but there is a proper process attached to it. I was interested to hear the Minister saying that another tranche of reforms to the Resource Management Act is coming, adding to these reforms, because Treasury said this bill might undermine the work being done on those Resource Management Act reforms. Whether or not we agree with what the National Government has planned for the Resource Management Act, Treasury has said it believes that what is happening here in this legislation is undermining the work being carried out on those reforms.
If this power for Parliament to intervene in particular cases already exists in legislation that people are comfortable working with, and whose processes they understand, we have to ask why we have to go down this path. We have yet to hear that. I look forward to the next Government speaker explaining why we need such an unprecedented power, because it is unprecedented and it creates a precedent, and we should be aware of that. Perhaps it is the Government’s intention. Maybe this is the way it will go, just allowing Ministers to completely undo everything that local councils and communities do.
The key point is that this creates enormous additional uncertainty for people who want to invest in aquaculture. How will they know that everything they are basing their proposal on will not suddenly be whipped away by the Minister or overwritten? Given that this bill is meant to be about creating more certainty, perhaps we will need to look at that in the Committee stage.
I will not talk about the undue adverse effects test, because other people have covered it and I am running out of time. The other thing I will touch on relates to some
changes made under the emissions trading scheme to the way fisheries are dealt with. Again, if we are taking aquaculture seriously, it needs to be a whole-of-Government approach, not just aquaculture legislation, or whatever we do. Labour was very concerned when changes were made, with compensation and assistance being put in to enable the fisheries sector to deal with the costs of an emissions trading scheme—and those measures were subsidies, basically, for the fuel—and the Government changed that to give it to the quota holders instead of the vessel operators. Rather than giving it to the people who would be going out and checking and collecting, the Government gave that assistance to the quota holders. Most aquaculture stocks, as far as I am aware, are not in the quota management system. That means that unless an operator fishes a stock in the quota management system, they now get no assistance under this National Government—and the Māori Party negotiated this—and its emissions trading scheme. They get no assistance with the cost of fuel and the emissions trading scheme charges.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: The Green Party has some major concerns about the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3). We are supporters of aquaculture, particularly in the appropriate places, but we think opening up public space that is highly contested with a bill of this nature is a recipe for ongoing conflict. We are concerned about the years and years of work that has been done, particularly in the area where I live in the Coromandel-Hauraki area, where Environment Waikato and a stakeholders group worked in detail on a plan that has been overridden. That is our concern. We do not think that aquaculture should not be developed or that aquaculture does not have a lot to contribute, but those people, who have all been in touch with me, are deeply concerned that their whole process was a waste of time and has been marginalised, while powers are being given to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Although we agree in principle with and support the aspiration declared in the commentary, which is to “provide an efficient legislative and regulatory framework that would enable the sustainable development of aquaculture within the coastal marine area.”, we do not think, given the difficulties we have seen, that this bill will achieve that aspiration. It makes sense to develop some enabling legislation that focuses on genuine sustainability and long-term strategy and action, but this bill does not do that.
The declared position of the Government and other supporters of the bill is that we need to facilitate aquaculture above other activities. It is being touted as the next billion-dollar industry, which reminds me of investment in kiwifruit or goats, or whatever is the great “gold rush” of the time, without thinking of the long-term consequences of what is a very complex and contested space—that is, the marine environment. We are yet to have an oceans policy, and we are yet to have all kinds of policies in place that are needed before we start carving up and selling off these rights.
The enthusiasm for allowing rapid development needs to be tempered by ecological and social constraints, which this bill falls short of. If we do away with aquaculture management areas or some similar provision of designated space, that will open up what many submitters at the Primary Production Committee referred to as a “gold rush”. The proposals on sequencing of applications by the amendments introduced in clause 35 do very little to change the “first in, first served” default position, which means there will be pressure on applicants to submit an adequate proposal, rather than to devote time to preparing a more sustainable one.
There were repeated references in the first reading debate and at the select committee, and by the Government, to our need for the aquaculture industry to be normalised within the Resource Management Act and treated more or less like any other activity. That denies the reality that issuing permits to use marine areas for aquaculture effectively denies public access in favour of allowing for exclusive use of what is
currently public domain. Recreational boaties and fishers are particularly concerned by these proposed changes. I am very aware of this issue. I held two public meetings in the Hauraki area, in the Coromandel and Thames. They were attended by recreational boaties and commercial fishers, who raised major concerns about the issues. No other public events were held, except for a very strange consultation process run by the Government. No one in our area knew the status of or outcome of the process. It was pushed through very rapidly and it did not connect to this bill in a clear way. It has resulted in concern and confusion right across our region about what this bill does, particularly in the Waikato.
Sandra Goudie: That’s crap.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: The local member says that that is rubbish, but then she was not actually at the meeting and has not engaged publicly with the issue. No one has heard her talk about it, so we do not really know what her view is, whereas I have heard what the fishermen say about it. They are concerned about opening up this area, not only for aquaculture as we know it, which is a well-established industry that a lot of us support, but also for cage fish farming in a way that is utterly risky economically and environmentally.
The marine farming industry is effectively freeloading if it is allowed to generate substantial profit but pay no resource rental to the Crown for extracting nutrients, impeding alternative public access or use, and degrading landscape and seascape and amenity values. We have to ask who is really benefiting here and why this is going ahead, because marine farmers do not pay rates. If this was land they would be paying rates for what they do to the environment. Lots of aquaculture is well managed but some of the proposals on the table—which can be opened up through this legislation without proper input from the public, without regional decision-making, and without the stakeholders who have worked on these issues for years—are of great concern and involve threats to the environment that we have not seen before in this country. I am talking about the sow crates of the sea. I am talking about the potential for cage fish farming, which is not sustainable. There is a proposal to do that in the Hauraki Gulf right now.
The mechanisms proposed for the issue of the permits are sufficiently complex and require the participation and agreement of so many different and conflicting interests that we doubt that the outcome will meet the practice in terms of anybody’s wants or needs. Although the proposal to allow for consideration of any undue adverse effects on fishing, which is one of the key issues for the fishing community, to be carried out in parallel with the Resource Management Act process seems reasonable, in practice there will be enormous pressure on the Ministry of Fisheries to consent to the granting of a permit if the relevant regional council has indicated its approval.
It is highly undesirable that consultation with affected parties be at the discretion of the ministry rather than mandated, as proposed in new section 186D, set out in clause 35. I refer to a very good submission from the Environmental Defence Society to the Primary Production Committee, because it made some excellent points. One of them was referred to by, I think, the previous speaker, Moana Mackey: “The Minister of Aquaculture’s powers to recommend regulations to amend regional coastal plans under clauses 65 and 96 should be removed.” The Green Party thinks they are unnecessary. It is interesting that Moana raised the issue of precedent. How many other Ministers will get powers, and what powers? Will we give more power to Ministers to decide on mining on land, for example? I am sure that would be equally as unwelcome as a gold rush in the marine environment.
The submission continues: “The other functions the Minister of Aquaculture introduced by clause 65 of the Bill including suspending receipt of applications for
coastal permits authorising aquaculture activities, and making a direction to process and hear together applications for coastal permits … should be removed. These functions should [be] undertaken by the Minister for the Environment, on advice from the Ministry for the Environment.”, rather than the Minister having the say-so over these issues.
The Environmental Defence Society also made some very good points with regard to the Tasman regional coastal plan and the Waikato regional coastal plan, under clauses 100 and 101. We support those clauses being removed from this bill, because we do not believe that they are in the long-term interests of the industry, let alone the environment. We support the points made at the select committee about the undermining of the integrity of the Resource Management Act, although I do not know why we would expect the Government to listen, because it has already undermined the Act’s integrity on a lot of fronts, and I imagine that will continue.
The Government is undermining public confidence in the Resource Management Act. Undermining confidence in the Resource Management Act is a serious matter, because no matter what powers we give to the Minister, people will fight back about their space. A huge Auckland community as well as a huge Coromandel community use that space. The other key point on which we support the Environmental Defence Society is the issue of favouring one activity over another: “The provisions favour aquaculture against the myriad of other activities”.
We have a lot of issues, and we do not believe that the proposed changes are necessary. We believe that we have Resource Management Act processes that should be respected and we believe that we should actually consider all the work that has gone on in the past.
Finally, I will talk about the specific example I am familiar with, which is that under the current opening up of places like the Hauraki Gulf, Tīkapa Moana, there is a proposal to bring in a totally new sort of aquaculture: cage fishing farming of hāpuku or kingfish. It is entirely unproven, if we look at overseas examples. Are we going to import fishmeal? We were asked by people at public meetings where else this was going to come from. Are we going to import small coastal fish species out of other people’s catchments to feed bigger fish inside cages? The fishing community is concerned about disease and the environmental communities are concerned about pollution, but in the end it is also an ethical and moral issue about other people’s fisheries. It is not going to make money—if that is what other members are interested in—if people have to pay more to bring in the fish to make the other fish get big and fat.
If we want to export fish why do we not look after our fisheries, allow our wild fish to be healthy, and then export those fish? That is proven technology. Cage fish farming, the sow crates of the sea, is highly resisted by many people in the Coromandel area who support aquaculture. Like in the Tasman area, a lot of people support aquaculture, but they want fair planning and they do not want new forms of technology around fishing and cage fish farming to be in conflict. They are very concerned that it is not only uneconomic but also environmentally risky to bring in caged fish under a bill like this and to wipe out all the work that has been done in the district to try to make our aquaculture management areas properly planned. It has always been controversial.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga)
: Today is an auspicious day on which to speak to the second reading of the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3), for while we are debating this bill today, which makes changes to the Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004, the Fisheries Act 1996, the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004, and the Resource Management Act 1991, over in New York in the United Nations headquarters some 1,300 delegates are meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the United Nations
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It is with considerable pride that I rise to this bill mindful of the call of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for participants to raise their voices so that the world can hear about the threats and risks that indigenous communities face, as well as about the unique expertise they can bring to issues such as aquaculture.
I stand here also as a direct descendant of Ngāti Kōata, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Kuia, and Ngāi Tahu, proud that we have a Government that is committed to upholding the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004, which provided for a full and final settlement of Māori commercial aquaculture interests since 21 September 1992. That Act was very important in terms of ensuring that iwi have access to coastal marine space to develop their marine farming interests. There are two particular sets of obligations to the settlement. The Act commits the Crown to providing the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Settlement Trust with the equivalent of 20 percent of existing aquaculture space in a coastal marine area issued on or after 21 September 1992. It requires 20 percent of all new aquaculture space identified in the coastal marine area to be transferred to iwi via the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Settlement Trust.
The bill we are debating today enables the Crown’s settlement obligations to be delivered under the proposed new law. This can be done through the provision of either space in the coastal marine area or an agreed equivalent. So we are at a significant point in our journey. But how do we ensure that tangata whenua can indeed raise their voices, as encouraged by the Secretary-General of the United Nations? The most distinctive feature of this work to date is the close engagement between the Ministers and iwi, to ensure that the integrity of the settlement will be maintained. The Crown and iwi leaders established a group of technical advisers to develop and consult on options for a new settlement delivery mechanism. The technical group has reported to Ministers and iwi leaders, and I want to point out a few more details about this innovative type of policy creation that has been a feature of the Māori Party’s influence on the Government.
The role of the Iwi Leaders Forum has been a vital one to get the door open and to establish some foundation principles, so that hapū and whānau have a strong platform from which to launch their input. The aquaculture Iwi Leadership Group has made it clear, as in fact has every iwi leaders group during this term of Government, that its members do not speak for, or represent, any other iwi apart from their own. Each and every one of the iwi leaders forum members is elected to their respective positions by their iwi, and it is not for other outsiders to criticise those leaders. If there is criticism to be put, let it be from the people at home. The key thing, whether it be in New York or in Murihiku, is for Māori to be at the front end of each issue, and that is the assurance we have been able to provide through our position at the Government table. It is about being able to deliver.
Delivery is about far more, of course, than the kōrero, important though that is. It is about doing the mahi—in the case of this bill, working out mechanisms for delivering the Crown’s obligations. The technical group members were chosen to do just that, based on their expertise in aquaculture, resource management, policy development, local government processes, kaitiakitanga, and iwi development. Because of this wide expertise, the iwi leaders have been able to be quite innovative around the acquisition of space, given the current restrictions. This is particularly important in terms of securing other space, such as deep-sea aquaculture space, because that is where the industry and technology are heading. I acknowledge the Minister for working with the Māori Party and for inviting iwi to discuss precisely how the Crown can deliver its obligations under the Māori commercial aquaculture claims settlement for new space. What iwi and hapū have told us repeatedly, over the last decade, is that the Labour Government rushed through the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act, leaving a lot of
loopholes that left Māori vulnerable. The bill closes some of those loopholes, so it should be supported.
The fundamental problem is that too few new players, including Māori, will be able to enter the aquaculture industry. There has been basically no existing space to allocate to Māori, and it is too difficult to get new space, as the process is too difficult and bureaucratic. We needed to think creatively and long term about how to ensure that marine-based aquaculture is able to fulfil its economic potential, while also retaining the existing protections to ensure that the integrity of the settlement for iwi is kept. We also know that iwi leaders have expressed a preference for space, which has been captured in the settlement.
There is no time to waste. As we understand it, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and the Ministry of Fisheries are currently doing forecasting research on new aquaculture spaces to be made available to iwi. This is space based on 20 percent of the aquaculture industry. We also understand that space will be available regionally, so that will require iwi to enter into regional arrangements amongst themselves. This will proceed over a 3-year period. Cash settlement will still be available instead of space, if other iwi prefer that. These are all pragmatic, realistic steps towards enacting the settlement by progressing an innovative and meaningful settlement mechanism. It reminds me again of the words of Ban Ki-moon, who told the New York gathering that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples finally had the consensus that it deserves. Now we need to make the declaration’s principles a reality. One of the other concepts he talked about was the view that indigenous peoples have been living in a green economy for centuries. Ban Ki-moon suggested that when economists today look for new ways to achieve sustainable development, they should look at the old practices in indigenous communities. I cannot help but think, as we look face-on at the growth of the aquaculture industry in Aotearoa, that we should look with renewed respect at the impact of iwi upon aquaculture. Perhaps we can all take a moment to learn from their example.
We are happy to support this bill. We are pleased that the reform package aims to reduce costs, delays, and uncertainty; encourage investment; and ensure decisions on aquaculture fit within an integrated, coastal management framework. Most of all, we are so happy that the legislation has benefited from consultation with, and input from, iwi, hapū, and whānau.
COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura)
: It is a pleasure to take a call on the second reading of the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3). In doing so, I will address a couple of questions that were raised by members on the other side of the House. One of the speakers asked why there needs to be ministerial power. The simple reason is that under the review of aquaculture by Sir Doug Kidd it was designated that there should be a Minister responsible for aquaculture, and this Government is very keen to see aquaculture put on to a sound footing. Therefore, a designated team was set up within the Ministry of Fisheries for aquaculture. I would have to say that as the Primary Production Committee went through this bill, it was wonderful to have the expert guidance and focus of that particular team. What has come out in this bill is to the credit of the officials who advised us.
It is a very, very complex issue. Under the 2004 Aquaculture Reforms (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Act we had a problematic situation where only one species could be farmed within an aquaculture management area. What we have learnt, particularly in the Marlborough Sounds, is that with good, sound science we have opportunities where finfish can be farmed. Talking to Work and Income the other day, I discovered we are at the maximum unemployment we have been at for some time. We see aquaculture within the Marlborough Sounds, especially concerning finfish, as
providing in the short term another 300 jobs. This legislation will certainly put aquaculture on to a very sound footing, and we look forward to that.
It was interesting also that the industry came to the select committee and said we should take more leadership around legislating how the undue adverse effects would be managed. We pushed back at that and said we would not. But the industry was actually looking for central government leadership, and we are very fortunate at this time to have a very able Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who is able to show appropriate leadership. In so doing we can be very proud of the efforts that the select committee has made on this bill, and the fact that the Government has shown confidence in this industry. The industry has a fine purpose for the future, and we believe it will reach $1 billion by the year 2025. Thank you.
Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour)
: There are a few minutes left before the dinner break. I have been listening very carefully to members on the other side speaking on this bill. We worked very hard in the Primary Production Committee, and I acknowledge the chair. We do a good job in the Primary Production Committee. We work together in a bipartisan way and try to make the legislation that comes our way as acceptable as we possibly can.
The Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3) amends four current Acts: the Resource Management Act 1991, the Fisheries Act 1996, the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act, and the Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004.
The committee members had an opportunity to visit South Australia last year, and, as has been said before, we had a good look at aquaculture in South Australia. In particular we wanted to know what it is that makes aquaculture in South Australia so successful, as compared with New Zealand. I am quite sure that a number of the recommendations that we brought back at the time were helpful in bringing to this House a third amendment bill on aquaculture. We have made quite a few improvements to the current Acts, but certainly there is a lot more to be done in the future. I do not believe that this bill going forward, albeit we all support it, will solve all the problems that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture claims it will solve. I would not be surprised if within a year or two we come back with another amendment. I think there are areas, particularly the area of undue adverse effects, where there has been a lot of submitters who—
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY: When we adjourned earlier on, I was talking about aquaculture being an industry in which, when compared with our other agricultural industries—dairy farming, meat, and others—we have not done very well in this country. However in Australia, and in South Australia in particular, aquaculture is doing very well. Hopefully, though, this bill, which we on this side of the House are supporting, will help to promote this industry, which in the next 10 to 15 years we hope will be worth about $1 billion. I hope that this bill will go some way to help promote aquaculture.
As we went through the submission process, we saw that a whole lot of people were opposed to a number of issues in this bill. One issue with which those people had reservations was in relation to the regulatory power given to the Minister to change regional coastal plans without public input. We had a lot of submissions on that issue from customary fishers, recreational fishers, and the ordinary public, who were not happy because they thought that this legislation gave too much power to the Minister. In fact, some submitters even said that a Draconian and undemocratic power was being given to the Minister in giving him the power to change regional coastal plans without any public input. I think that the Minister and the Government should seriously note that
this could be another problem going forward. If public input is not there, then we could have the same problem as we had earlier. It also reflects on the Government, just as it has in the case of Auckland City or Canterbury, because it shows some kind of dictatorial attitude towards doing things without proper public input.
Another key provision of this bill removes the requirement for aquaculture management areas to be in place before consents are given. A lot of submissions were opposed to that requirement in respect of aquaculture management areas. So I must say that we did have problems in relation to the requirement for the establishment of aquaculture management areas. Particularly at the regional council level we had a problem in respect of the establishment of aquaculture management areas. I am pleased that this bill allows us not to require aquaculture management areas prior to gaining consent for aquaculture.
Another issue was in relation to the length of time given for coastal consents, which is from 20 years to 35 years. The maximum limit given is 35 years, but the minimum can be 20 years. That is appropriate for ensuring that we have a process that gives investors the opportunity to invest money with the hope of a good return over a long period. In terms of relicensing, or re-consenting, if you like, the process in this bill is simplified, and hopefully the requirement will require less information. Any entrepreneur or investor who wants to re-consent will, after the first initial consent, have to provide less information to make sure the consent is forthcoming.
Another issue is with regard to the clause that regulates the powers for the Minister of Conservation to approve the use of an allocation tool by regional councils for managing high and competing demands. I think that it is important that the Minister of Conservation has been given that power.
A lot of submitters were opposed to the powers given to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. This bill gives very broad powers to change, introduce, or remove provisions relevant to the management of aquaculture in a regional coastal plan without the requirement to consult the community affected, although the Minister is required to consult the relevant regional council. This particular clause was opposed 2:1 by submitters because they thought the powers given to the Minister to change the requirement provisions were too Draconian. A lot of people, particularly environmentalists and customary and recreational fishers, were all opposed to that particular power.
A further issue in this bill relates to Māori aquaculture. This bill, I am pleased to say, retains the core component of the aquaculture settlement in respect of the Māori commercial aquaculture claims and the 20 percent allocation of new space.
The final issue was the test for undue adverse effects, as explained earlier by other speakers. This bill retains the Fisheries Act requirement to assess whether a proposed aquaculture activity will have any undue adverse effects on commercial, customary, and recreational fisheries.
With those comments, I suggest once again that Labour will support this bill. Apart from a couple of areas—the test for undue adverse effects, and the lack of having a commitment for consulting the people affected—the bill is very good. Thank you very much.
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki)
: A previous Labour speaker, Damien O’Connor—I think he is the spokesperson on aquaculture—pointed out that during the Labour administration there was not much growth in aquaculture in New Zealand. We can talk about spin, though, because actually there was no growth whatsoever—absolutely none. Zero. The speaker himself realised that this is the second or third time around on aquaculture industry legislation in New Zealand, but not much growth came
from the Minister of such matters under Labour—in fact, there was zero growth. So it was an interesting angle of spin there, I think.
Just very quickly, I say that other speakers have identified issues about why there has been no growth in aquaculture in New Zealand over the last 10 years or so. Interestingly, as other members have said, the Primary Production Committee operates very well. It is a bipartisan committee, and as we can see from the commentary on the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3), its deliberation is all very good.
But what we hear from a couple of speakers on the other side is that there are particular issues around changes in the Minister’s direction on coastal planning, existing consents, etc. That is interesting, because these are main items in the bill: coastal planning and the allocation of tools to manage demand, the operation of coastal permits, the variation of coastal permits, and the re-consenting of coastal permits for aquaculture. The full committee has presented this bill to the House, and it has the endorsement of all parties across the House. OK, other members might want something to talk about, but if members read the commentary and go through some of the other papers about this bill, they will see that those issues were not of enough concern for select committee members, including members from the Labour Party, to amend the original bill as intended across the committee. I commend this bill to the House.
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour)
: I rise to take a call in support of the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3), but we have some reservations. It was interesting to hear the member opposite Craig Foss, because I was very closely involved with the Ōpōtiki District Council at the time when it was trying to get consent to aquaculture space. There was a bit of a gold rush on, actually, during the 9 years we were in Government. It was unfettered access to the coastal margin, and that caused us concern. The member may laugh about the lack of progress, but I believe that this bill has just gone from one extreme to the other. We were deeply concerned.
Some aspects of our Labour bill, the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill, are in this bill, but the crossover and the pick-up, as any Government is entitled to, have given us concern. The industry is not happy with the process for determining whether an aquaculture project would have undue adverse effects. Representatives from the industry came to the Primary Production Committee. They proposed a mechanism whereby they would work collectively to look at undue adverse effects at any time. I suggested we put that test in during the consenting process, but, no, this Government knew best. The industry thought it had come up with an idea. There is great collective intelligence there, but the Government, in its wisdom, just rejected that request from the industry, which, of course, it has the prerogative to do.
I think that is very indicative of why we are in the House debating the role of consenting authorities under the Resource Management Act, the Coastal Policy Statement, coastal plans, and the powers of consenting authorities. The legislation gives unfettered powers to the Minister yet again, which is very similar to what we have seen in Canterbury with the Environment Canterbury intervention there, and in Auckland as well. Again the Minister has powers to override regional coastal plans. Regional coastal plans are not an instrument developed overnight, as you know, Mr Assistant Speaker Roy. They are developed after some time, and at times it is a lengthy process. But we now have a Minister with the powers to override those consenting authorities. The Government is quite wrong to say those powers are controlled; they are unfettered powers. It absolutely arrogantly undermines those who have participated in the development of a regional coastal plan.
I say that as a previous Minister of Conservation I started to promulgate the Coastal Policy Statement. I have real concerns that the Minister Kate Wilkinson sat on that piece of work for 18 months, and released the Coastal Policy Statement in this House
only because she was put under pressure by Labour. Labour members started to ask the hard questions in the hard basket about what she was doing about the Coastal Policy Statement. That was a guiding document for regional councils and local authorities. The Minister herself delayed releasing that Coastal Policy Statement. So why would the industry have faith in this Government and the Minister, who has the powers in this bill to completely override the regional planning in relation to coastal activities? I think it is a worry.
We have gone from one extreme, where there was a bit of a gold rush for coastal space and for aquaculture development, to the other. Labour too wanted to see that $1 billion unlocked and that $1 billion of potential earnings from aquaculture flow back into the coffers of New Zealand. But it has not yet, it still has not, and now we have given the powers to one Minister to step in, override regional councils, and override other consenting authorities under the Resource Management Act. I think that this bill is a reflection on the Government, which has put its own flavour on it, as it can do.
Giving the Minister that power has added uncertainty for investors in aquaculture space. The Minister lauds in the House the idea of giving confidence to the industry with this bill, but now members of the industry themselves are saying they do not know and do not have confidence for investing in the long term in aquaculture and aquaculture development. I think the Government has gone completely to the other extreme.
It also ties the hands of councils in the consent process by requiring them to grant consents for a minimum term of 20 years. When we look at developments in the coastal margin, and we are looking at Petrobras and its issue about access to mineral exploration, we see that there are some real problems. If a mineral exploration happens on Ngāti Porou’s coastline and they are looking for consenting for aquaculture developments, what happens to aquacultural products if there is an oil spill on those very fields of gold? This bill gives power for 20 years, and I think we should be worried, iwi should be worried, and the Māori Party should be worried. The Māori Party is fighting the good fight about Ngāti Porou, Petrobras, and mineral exploration. I would worry very much about the threat of contamination if there was an oil leak on the very aquacultural products we see as gold.
I have enjoyed taking a call on this bill. We remain deeply concerned about lots of aspects of this bill, but we feel too that there is great potential economically in aquacultural space. I have worked with Ōpōtiki District Council, and it is ready to unlock some wonderful potential over there on the coast in a community that is really struggling. We have some problems with this bill. I suppose the test will be when we see application after application and the use of ministerial powers in this space. Thank you.
JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata)
: I rise to take a brief call on the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3). I am pleased that both sides of the House seem to believe in this industry, and to want it to become a billion-dollar industry by 2025. However, on this side of the House we will try to actually make it happen. We are committed to streamlining consent processes and red tape—which, of course, only gets in the way—to help businesses grow, boost our economy, and create jobs. With those few words, I commend this Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) to the House.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 42; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 3; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||Green Party 9; Independents: Carter C, Harawira.
|Bill read a second time.