Ministerial Address at the 2004 NZ Seafood Industry Conference
Thursday 27 May at 9.00am
Christchurch Convention Centre, Christchurch
Conference theme: Growth And Innovation
I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. It's a pleasure to be able to make a presentation to this key forum.
May I also say that I'm delighted to be able to pass on to you the warm regards of the Prime Minister who would have been here herself today, but for the small matter of today's Budget.
You will all be aware of the Government's commitment to sustainable development and I am aware of the significance of the fishing sector in achieving sustainable development goals.
The fishing industry is a leading contributor, both to New Zealand society and the national economy. Though long recognised as an export leader, the industry also plays a significant role in stimulating regional employment and economic growth. Indeed in Nelson & Marlborough it contributes to approximately one third of the local GDP.
For Maori, the fishing sector continues to be an integral part of the economic structure of the Iwi and access to fisheries for customary needs is vital to the culture and well being of Maori society in general.
The performance of the industry in overseas markets is something that all New Zealanders can be proud of, not just in terms of exports but also in terms of its success in expanding its operations beyond New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone.
It is important for us to acknowledge that these achievements have been made by an increasingly efficient industry that operates without subsidies and which contributes substantially to its own management costs.
However, a reliance on overseas markets brings with it a vulnerability to fluctuations in the international economy. Over the course of the last year the industry has come under pressure from the strong New Zealand dollar, which has eroded the value of exports.
Together with a series of significant changes to fisheries management the industry is faced with a challenge. It will require new thinking and sufficient foresight to deal with the immediate short-term pain and also to plan for the future. Government together with industry will need to look forward and work together to ensure that continued growth and innovation in the fishing sector is achieved.
Today I would like to cover a number of important fisheries management initiatives that are coming to fruition after many years of hard work. These are; The Aquaculture Reforms, The Maori Fisheries Bill, our international negotiations, the species introductions into the QMS and the Fisheries Amendment (No.3) Bill.
Together, the outcomes of this work will help to form the platform that will enable us to move ahead with a new series of management reforms, which are designed to enable the industry to play a greater role in shaping its future.
Consolidation of Current Initiatives Aquaculture
The reform of aquaculture will be of interest to a number of you here today.
As I am sure most of you know, the moratorium on new marine farming resource consent applications has recently been extended to expire in December of this year. Now that the Foreshore and Seabed Bill is before Select Committee a clearer picture of the policy is available, the aquaculture reforms, including addressing Treaty issues, can progress with greater certainty.
Another challenge to the progress of the reforms has arisen through the Waitangi Tribunal's findings and the resultant need for further consultation with Maori. These processes highlighted serious concerns about the potential effect of the reforms on Maori interests in coastal space and we continue to grapple with those issues.
Despite these challenges, we are continuing to make progress and the aquaculture reform remains a major priority for the government during 2004.
The goal continues to be to complete the reforms as quickly as possible so that the reforms can deliver the benefits of better integration of planning processes, greater certainty for marine farmers and fishers, and improved environmental performance.
Maori Fisheries Bill:
I am especially pleased that the Maori Fisheries Bill will be passed into law this year. The settlement of Maori claims to fisheries was a corner stone in securing the legitimacy of the Quota Management System as the management regime for commercial fisheries in New Zealand.
The Maori Fisheries Bill provides for the transfer of quota and cash to iwi and shares in fishing companies to iwi and TOKM. The permanent transfer of the benefits of the fisheries settlement will enable iwi to undertake long-term decision making over their position in the industry. For the first time many will be able to plan to maximise the value of their asset and to develop catching, processing and marketing arrangements to bring the best return to their members.
The release of these resources has the real potential to create employment and to provide a base of skills, business experience and infrastructure that can serve as a platform to further sustain economic growth and the economy of the regions.
The security of quota ownership can also serve as a platform to release the entrepreneurial skill that Maori businesses have shown in other primary sectors like the wine industry where Maori have proven the value on the international market of indigenous branding. These entries into the market by iwi businesses and joint ventures have strong potential to create further opportunities for recognition of New Zealand as a producer of quality seafood products with unique and desirable features for the international consumer. This will inevitably provide opportunities for all New Zealand seafood producers, and indeed, all producers.
I would like to highlight some of the progress that we have made in the international arena. This is an area that has an impact on, not only those fishers operating in international waters but also those operating within the New Zealand EEZ. Often it is at the international level where the context for national fisheries management regimes is set.
In December 2003 New Zealand became the thirteenth country to ratify the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention triggering a six-month countdown to entry into force of the Convention on 19 June 2004. The Convention covers a vast area that includes the richest tuna fisheries in the world and it is important that New Zealand is at the table when decisions about these resources are made.
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna met in Christchurch last year and, under New Zealand chairmanship, reached agreement on a TAC and national allocations for the first time since 1997. The decision is instrumental in returning this Commission to a more functional footing.
We have continued to work within the Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to strengthen the institutional arrangements for managing Antarctic fisheries and we are close to finalising New Zealand's National Plan of Action for the prevention of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In April (2004) NZ presented a proposal to the WTO negotiating group calling for a ban on subsidies that are liable to contribute to overcapacity or over fishing or other trade distortions. The proposal is the first to formally call for a ban on fisheries subsidies and outline how such a ban might be written into WTO rules. The proposal gained support from a number of like-minded fish exporting countries and it has placed the issue firmly on the agenda for future discussions
Finalising introductions into the QMS
Since the introduction of the QMS in 1986 MFish has undertaken the formidable task of applying this regime to all commercially important aquatic species. A large number of species have been introduced over the last few years and the outcome is that by October 2005 most of our major fisheries will be managed under the QMS. Those species that will remain outside of the QMS are those that currently have low commercial value and whose sustainability is not threatened.
The last of the major areas in which consolidation is occurring is the Fisheries Amendment Bill (No.3), which was introduced into Parliament on 23rd March this year.
The Bill reinforces the role of the Quota Management System in New Zealand fisheries management. It also improves certainty for stakeholders regarding the process for introducing species into the Quota Management System.
The Bill changes the current quota allocation mechanisms. Catch history will remain as the means of quota allocation for the following categories only: species and stocks on a transitional schedule to be inserted in the Act; tunas; and highly migratory species caught outside New Zealand Fisheries waters.
The current commercial fishing permit moratorium on non-Quota Management System species, which has been in place since 1992, will be lifted and the commercial fishing permit regime revised. In order to address potential sustainability risks associated with the revised permit regime, stocks and species on the transitional schedule will remain subject to the commercial fishing permit moratorium.
Our Quota Management System will also be extended to provide for the management of highly migratory species, such as tuna, beyond New Zealand fisheries waters.
The Bill will revise the 1983 Fisheries Act to ensure smooth transition from the current spat catching permit regime to the Quota Management System when green-lipped mussel becomes subject to the Quota Management System from 1 October 2004.
The Bill will also be used to support the process of scampi introduction into the Quota Management System on 1st October 2004 using catch history as the basis for quota allocation.
Industry may feel that it is going through a constant process of change, but the ability to adapt is a prerequisite for growth in any sector. Fisheries is no different. The consolidation of current initiatives will present new opportunities for industry and the change in the way fisheries are managed will also provide further opportunities.
Stimulating Growth and Innovation
The changes to management of fisheries are signalled in the Ministry's business plan (the statement of intent) for the next financial year. The business plan sets out the building blocks for creating a new fisheries management framework. That framework will for the first time set out, in a comprehensive manner, how the obligations in the Fisheries Act and objectives in the Ministry's strategic plan will together be achieved.
It is a framework that establishes the minimum standards necessary for managing fisheries. The use of standards signals a shift from dictating to fishers how they do their business to an approach where the environmental outcomes are defined but the way in which they are achieved is left for the stakeholders to determine themselves. I am fully supportive of a standards based approach as being a way of stimulating growth and innovation while ensuring fisheries are managed sustainably.
Standards will provide greater certainty that fisheries management outcomes sought will be achieved. The standards that are developed are not intended to be prescriptive in the sense of dictating what will be done, rather they are statements of what Government and rights holders will deliver.
Standards will be developed over a number of years through a process that ensures consistency with the fisheries act 1996 and the MFish strategic plan. There will be flexibility and ample opportunity for stakeholders to decide how they can meet the agreed standards.
The new management framework aims to clarify the respective roles of Government and industry along with other stakeholders.
The Government led stock strategies will ensure that the obligations in the Fisheries Act are met. Under stock strategies the Government will provide for utilisation while ensuring that environmental bottom lines are achieved. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide input into the development of stock strategies.
In contrast, the rights holder led fish plans will provide the opportunity for stakeholders to determine how they wish to maximise value and provide for their own well-being. Within Fish Plans rights holders will take on the responsibility to achieve the standards through developing objectives and strategies and delivering services.
The Government will not require industry to develop fisheries plans. It is up to industry to now step forward and take up that opportunity. The role of Government will be to set out the basis for a fisheries plan and subsequently to monitor and audit the fisheries plan's achievement of the agreed standards.
MFish considers its relationships with rights holders to be very important and the new management framework will provide a good platform for you to work with MFish. However we recognise that it is also important for MFish to continue to improve our relationships with other stakeholders and the public.
The Ministry's business plan (the Statement of Intent) signals the Government's willingness to enable growth and innovation to occur. The extent to which that is achieved will be influenced by the willingness of industry to work in a responsible and collaborative way, both within the sector, with Government, and with other stakeholders.
Opportunity with Responsibility
The management framework that I have just described offers the industry a chance to determine how best to achieve the environmental standards set by the Government. However, with greater flexibility comes greater responsibility and with greater levels of self-determination comes the demand for greater levels of accountability.
For the industry to make the most of the new opportunities you need to carefully consider whether you are well placed to take up the challenges presented by this new framework. From my limited experience to date as Minister, I see an industry that has expressed a desire to take a greater lead in management. Indeed there may be a general consensus within industry about a lack of trust and agreement as to Government decisions, but there do not appear to be agreed solutions.
In order to be ready to take on further responsibility industry governance structures need to be robust and durable. That is not the case at present. Without adequate mandate, a stock or area based organisation cannot offer an effective voice for fishers. Consensus within the group of stakeholders undertaking the initiative is a vital component of the new management approach.
Government is willing to provide the flexibility and opportunity for industry to take on greater responsibility. The National Plan of Action for Seabirds is a case of where industry has the opportunity to assume collective responsibility to address a single management issue. The inability of industry to take up that opportunity will result in Government filling that void.
Fisheries is a litigious environment. However, the courts can only adjudicate on issues brought before them. They do not offer long-term solutions or create the frameworks that enable innovation and growth. These matters can only be addressed by the stakeholders in collaboration with the Government.
I think my actions to date demonstrate my good will and support for the industry. That however cuts both ways and it would be very positive for us all if we focused more on issues than providing employment for our respected friends in the legal profession and courts.
Fisheries is a challenging area. It operates in an often dangerous physical environment. It is a complex subject that requires innovative and bold solutions. The Government has signalled that it is ready to move forward. I hope we are all ready for this challenge?
And finally, I wish to take a moment to recognise the contributions that two people have made to some of the important foundations of this new management approach. Later this year, Warwick Tuck, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Fisheries, and John Annala, Chief Scientist, will be leaving the Ministry. Though they will continue to work for the Ministry for the next few months this conference provides a good opportunity to recognise their contributions.
Warwick has led the Ministry of Fisheries since its inception in 1995-a period during which there have been a number of major developments in the management of New Zealand fisheries. These include the implementation of the 1996 Fisheries Act, new registry systems, and the contestable supply of fisheries services, introduction of a large number of species into the quota management system, development of customary fishing regulations, and a renewed focus on maximising the value we obtain from fisheries. The Ministry has achieved much under Warwick's leadership.
John Annala started work with the Ministry after many years as a fisheries researcher and research manager. More than anyone else, John was responsible for developing the world-leading annual stock assessment process that is now such an integral part of our management system. He has also been instrumental in the implementation of the contestable supply of research services. John is leaving MFish to take up a post as director of a new marine environmental research institute in Maine.
I know you would want to join me thanking both Warwick and John for their contributions to New Zealand fisheries and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.