September 30, 2016

The Government needs to do more to assist aquaculture, Prime Minister John Key told the New Zealand Aquaculture conference in Nelson yesterday.

That would enable the industry, currently returning about $400 million, to reach $1 billion in annual exports by 2025.

Without that assistance, Mr Key doubted the target would be met.

He said 70 percent of marine consents were up for renewal by 2024 at a potential cost of $48 million.

That was a waste of money. It was not acceptable to have to go through a highly bureaucratic process. 

He likened a consent for a marine farm to that of a casino. If the operator was doing the right thing, the licence should simply be rolled over.

A directive was being prepared by MPI Minister Nathan Guy and Environment Minister Nick Smith that would provide a lot more clarity. 

It would be consulted on by the end of the year and be in place by May next year.

It would not completely cut the cost of reconsenting but it would streamline the process.

"I'm really interested in aquaculture and I think we can do a lot better," he said.

"The Government has got to do better on your behalf. If we don't get you enough space you can't reach your potential.

"Norway makes more money out of salmon farming than it does from oil and we've got a better product."

He was frustrated by the Supreme Court decision that overturned the proposed King Salmon farm at Port Gore but that was beyond the Government's control. 

He said the wider seafood industry, with exports at a record $1.8 billion, was a big part of the economy.

Mr Key, who is also Tourism Minister, said his minister in that portfolio had been doing an outstanding job.

It was important to understand what success looked like. Tourism was booming, partly driven by the landscapes featured in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbitt, and it was expected that numbers would rise next year to 1.5 million Australians and 500,000 Chinese.

And the Chinese would spend more than the Aussies, showing it was more than a numbers game, just as with seafood.

He said Australia had gone terribly wrong with its wine industry in going down the volume path, selling wine in bladders. 

And, ever the optimist, he believed the TPP trade deal could still go through.

The conference had the theme "we're for good".

NZ Aquaculture chairman Bruce Hearn, introduced by chief executive Gary Hooper as "serial innovator, mussel farmer, oyster farmer", said the sector stood for doing the right thing.

It had a light touch on the environment, provided jobs that supported 3000 families and was the mainstay of small regional communities including Coromandel, Havelock, Twizel and Bluff.

The biggest challenge was securing enough space.

Sanford chief executive Volker Kuntzsch said there was a misalignment between perception and facts in the wider seafood industry.

He said some would have it there was hardly a fish left in the ocean and that our fishers were all up to mischief beyond the horizon.

In looking to the future of oceans management, he called for decisions based on science rather than eNGO emotion, a better job of promoting seafood as safe and sustainable, greater security of tenure and more collaboration.

- Tim Pankhurst