The Reform Process
There is good potential for growth in sustainable aquaculture in New Zealand, which would contribute significantly to New Zealand’s exports and economic growth. This growth will also benefit regional economies and Māori.
The 2004 aquaculture reforms have not delivered the expected national and regional economic benefits as no new space has been created by those reforms and it is unlikely that any new space will be created for several more years.
There is widespread agreement that the aquaculture law is not working due to the complexity, cost, and uncertainty associated with planning for aquaculture. The Ministry is working with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) on wide-ranging reforms to enable sustainable aquaculture development, and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers. Reforms to the aquaculture regime are part of the government’s wider programme of resource management reform.
An independent review of the regulatory regime for aquaculture in New Zealand was completed by LECG in March 2009. In July 2009 the government appointed an Aquaculture Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to provide expert input to the aquaculture reform process. The Ministry, along with other Departments, is supporting the TAG and continuing with analysis and policy development to inform a report back to Cabinet on recommendations for aquaculture reform by the end of 2009.
In the interim, the government has advanced two Aquaculture Amendment Bills to modify some components of the existing regime:
(i) Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill addresses problems that the Environment Court’s decision in SMW Consortium v Tasman District Council case raised with respect to the wording of the law (enacted 24 September 2008).
(ii) Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 2) addresses certain technical impediments to aquaculture and provides for development of short-term, small-scale experimental aquaculture outside aquaculture management areas. The Primary Production Select Committee reported the Bill back to Parliament on 1 September 2009 and it is expected to be passed later this year.
On 6 May 2009 the Crown and iwi from the South Island and Coromandel signed a Deed of Settlement for the early settlement of the Crown’s pre-commencement space obligations in those regions. The Māori aquaculture settlement requires that iwi are provided with 20 percent of new aquaculture space and also 20 percent of space created between 1992 and 2004 (pre-commencement space).
The Crown had made an undertaking to settle obligations to Māori in the aquaculture sector as part of the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004. However it became obvious that it would not be practical for the Crown to settle its obligations under the Aquaculture Settlement Act by providing marine farming space.
The proposal from iwi in partnership with the Crown for an early regional settlement was innovative. The request to extend the negotiations to include the iwi of all the major aquaculture areas showed real commitment and a spirit of co-operation.
The plan to fulfil the Crown’s settlement obligations, released in July 2008, suggested options to better deliver pre-commencement space settlement assets to iwi. It explored the potential for an amendment to the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Settlement Claims Act 2004 to enable regional agreements to be forged, and to bring forward the cash settlement option from its current date of 2013.
The $97 million payment that formed the centre of the settlement is the financial equivalent of that space and meets the Crown’s aquaculture obligations to the iwi.
Throughout the development of this settlement agreement we have seen innovative thinking, open negotiation and a willingness to work together to make the settlement happen.
Developing a way to agree a fair value for that marine farming space is something that has not been done before on this sort of scale, and required a lot of hard work from iwi leaders and negotiators, from Crown officials and from independent expert consultants.
The result of that settlement has removed a significant degree of uncertainty from the aquaculture sector about how the Crown might deliver on the pre-commencement space obligations, allowing the sector to focus on future investment and growth.
Legislation to enact the South Island and Coromandel regional settlements and to provide for regional agreements in other regions is expected to be passed by the end of 2009. The Ministry anticipates most of the remaining regions will also have been provided the opportunity for an agreement for an early settlement of the Crown’s pre-commencement obligations by that time.
Work on the wider reform of the aquaculture regime will ensure that the integrity of the Māori commercial aquaculture settlement is upheld.