Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton opened the New Zealand Aquaculture conference and AGM in Nelson today with a message that the Government sees the development of the aquaculture industry as one of the most important economic sectors for future growth. He said a work programme is to be developed, in partnership with the industry, to ensure that aquaculture achieves its potential.
"We are committed to working in partnership with the industry, local government, Maori and everyone, with a stake in the sector. We need to focus on what we have in common. We are entering a new era.
"Many in the industry felt justifiably frustrated when the government had to step in but we were determined to ensure this industry developed in a way that maximised its value. We have a new aquaculture law now and, more importantly, we can bring all of our energies towards the development and growth of the sector.
"A successful aquaculture industry can help New Zealand transform our economy because of the potential for it to be a high value industry with high-value, high skilled exports. The Government has made the development of the aquaculture industry a priority," Jim Anderton said.
"The government, as the industry has requested, will develop a national statement on sustainable aquaculture. It makes sense that the statement is one which is transparent and predictable, and looks to maximise the value we get from aquaculture. It will also be stating that aquaculture is a legitimate and valued use of our coastal space. The statement will be more effective if it has the blessing of the regional councils, as they are responsible for implementing the policy. Now is the time to look positively forward.
"Just last week I was in Chile, where I visited a salmon processing facility and was given an overview of the Chilean salmon industry. As many of you will know, in less than two decades they have built an industry from nothing to one that earns around three billion New Zealand dollars a year, twice as much as our entire seafood industry.
"Like us they had teething problems in the initial stages of growing their industry but have invested heavily in ensuring the sustainability of their operations. Today Chile has a high tech, high value salmon industry, and their number one export market is Japan. New Zealand is even closer to Japan than Chile and we have many other emerging Asian markets on our doorstep.
"I believe New Zealand has the potential to grow our aquaculture industry to a similar extent at the very least. It is up to us all to find the path, which will achieve that objective. One such path will clearly be accessing the experience and best practice of the most successful international development models.
"Just as the industry will benefit from international connections, aquaculture offers opportunities for Maori. Regionally based industries like aquaculture offer real opportunities for Maori development and jobs in their own regions.
"Ministers have directed departments to work directly with industry, councils, Maori and other interested parties. Government is committed to working with the industry in implementing the new law. We want to see some practical projects achieving progress.
"Aquaculture can make an enormous difference to the development of the regions. Look at the Nelson region – it is now a centre of excellence for seafood and aquaculture and has the potential to become a globally significant seafood centre. It can be one of the industrial hearts of the New Zealand economy as we develop an economy based around high value primary exports.
"The Labour-Progressive Government will work alongside the industry as we enter an exciting time of growth and development based on aquaculture," Jim Anderton said from Nelson.