New Zealand Minister of Fisheries, Pete Hodgson, has confirmed that the current moratorium on processing new marine farm resource consent applications is to be extended.
The 28-month moratorium, designed to allow time for aquaculture law reform and related local government planning, was due to expire in 25 March 2004. It will now be extended by nine months, until 31 December 2004.
Hodgson said the foreshore and seabed issue had delayed the development of the aquaculture reform legislation, which also dealt with the use of coastal space.
"I alerted the marine farming industry earlier this year that an extension to the moratorium could be necessary, given the unexpected complications of the foreshore and seabed issue," Mr Hodgson said. "Issues raised in the Waitangi Tribunal's Ahu Moana report on aquaculture, released earlier this year, must also be given proper consideration.
"We have made strenuous efforts to meet the original goal of having aquaculture reform legislation introduced and passed by March 2004, but it has not proved possible. An extension of the moratorium is now unavoidable."
The moratorium has ensured that councils have not been flooded with marine farm applications in a ‘race for space’ prior to the new legislation coming into effect.
"The current legislative framework for aquaculture is outdated, over-complicated and dysfunctional," Mr Hodgson said. "The new legislation will allow for the expansion of marine farming while ensuring that it is managed sustainably, allowing for recreational, environmental, customary and commercial interests."
"While the delay in the reform process is unfortunate, it will ensure we get the legislation right and that will provide more certainty in the long run. The aquaculture industry would naturally prefer a quicker fix, but they have told me that the correct fix is more important and if that means delay, they are prepared to live with it. I appreciate their understanding."
During the moratorium regional councils will continue to develop aquaculture management areas (AMAs), a key element of the proposed reforms. These are defined areas where future marine farming projects can be located.
A Bill to extend the aquaculture moratorium will be introduced to Parliament before Christmas. Legislation implementing the proposed aquaculture reforms is now expected to be introduced early next year.
"Meanwhile the more immediate hold-up to aquaculture is beginning to clear, namely the huge number of outstanding marine farm applications that created the need for the moratorium in the first place. These applications have been stalled because there were so many, and few met the standard of the environmental impact assessment that must accompany them. However the backlog is now beginning to move, as more resources have been deployed to address it and because the industry is making huge progress in the quality of its science reports to the Ministry of Fisheries."