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No new AMA space created - Anderton concedes

By Tim Donoghue

20 June 2007


This article was originally published in The Independent on 20th June 2007.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has conceded Labour's Maori caucus MP's have won their scrap with him over his now aborted attempt to push fisheries sustainability legislation through Parliament by the beginning of the 1 October, 2007 fishing year.

Anderton made the concession while being questioned by National Party Fisheries spokesman Phil Heatley before Parliament's Primary Production Select Committee last week.

Anderton said the walls of the Beehive cabinet room were littered by the remains of successive Fisheries Ministers who had endeavoured to take on the litigious fishing industry over the years.

Late last year Anderton decided to champion the Fisheries Act 1996 Amendment Bill and give fisheries officials more power in deciding the sustainability of quota for individual fisheries.

The proposal drew strong criticism from the fishing industry - who took Anderton and his Ministry to court over the issue late last year - and Parliament's Labour Maori MP's alike.

The Government - acting on advice from Auckland barrister Alan Ivory and Crown Counsel Peter McCarthy (from Crown Law) - late last year decided not to defend the judicial review orange roughy case brought by Antons Trawling Company Ltd.

This case was a catalyst behind Anderton's decision to amend section 10 of the 1996 Fisheries Act.

Anderton told the select committee he preferred a cooperative approach when it came to passing legislation.

'It's better to take a bit longer to get something done rather than bash it through and have everyone unhappy...I have discovered like others warned me that it would be more difficult than perhaps I thought (to get the legislation through),' Anderton said.

Heatley also questioned Anderton on the subject of aquaculture and the difficulty marine farmers were having in their endeavours to establish new aquaculture marine areas (AMA's) under 2004 legislation introduced by previous Fisheries Minister, David Benson-Pope.

Anderton said he was not at the stage of giving up on the Benson-Pope legislation - under which regional councils are required to establish AMA's via a Resource Management Act path.

'Why is it,' Heatley asked, 'not one new AMA has been established under the new legislation in the past 30 months?'

Anderton conceded there had been no new space created under the AMA framework. However he said space had been created under the previous legislation in the past 30 months.

He said he was not ready to give up on the new legislation just yet.
He said the Government had forked out about $2million in grants to regional councils to assist them in their efforts to establish AMA's

'We are working with four or five councils now...If we run into unalterable obstacles...then I am willing to have a look at amendments to the Act,' he said.

He was also asked by Heatley to comment on a report in the Marlborough Express newspaper this week stating local Maori wanted $30 million to help develop aquaculture in the Marlborough Sounds.

Under the 2004 legislation the Labour Government agreed Maori should be given the equivalent of 20% of all existing and 20% of all future aquaculture space.

If this commitment could not be met by 2014 the Government also agreed there would be a (massive) cash payout to Maori in compensation.

The requested $30 million referred to by Marlborough Maori this week was a request for an advance payment on this 2014 treaty settlement commitment.

Anderton scoffed at the suggestion this money should be paid out now.

'Are they going to write out the cheque themselves,' he laughed.

Anderton said it was too early to be talking about such payments as under the legislation compensatory aquaculture space for Maori had to be found between 2008-14.

'That's the path we're going down,' Anderton said.

Meanwhile aquaculture industry leaders told The Independent last week they were disappointed Prime Minister Helen Clark did not refer to problems (in her speech) the industry was having with the 2004 legislation when she officiallly opened the new government sponsored Aquaculture NZ industry body in Nelson earlier this month.

They told The Independent they had been led to believe by officials Clark would make the concession to the industry in her speech at Nelson's Boathouse - however there was no sign of the concession in her speech, the industry leaders said.



Read more about the Fisheries Amendment Bill here  » »


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