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Aquaculture changes in the pipeline, Heatley says

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Heatley
Phil Heatley

Wellington, July 22 NZPA - The Government is on track to set new regulations for the aquaculture industry that will allow the backlog of applications to be dealt with, Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley says.

More than 60 applications covering 8000 hectares were waiting for decisions, he said today.

"We want these applications to progress. This reform will effectively free up the bottleneck that has kept industry growth in limbo for many years," he said.

The Government's aim is to help the industry reach its goal of $1 billion annual sales by 2025 -- a threefold increase on current sales.

Mr Heatley said that in the past the industry had been stifled by inflexible rules that discouraged investment.

The Government also proposes changing two regional coastal plans it considers are significant barriers to aquaculture growth -- Tasman and Waikato -- through an Aquaculture Reform Bill.

The proposed changes would allow finfish farming applications to be made as long as environmental standards were met, Mr Heatley said.

"The Government recognises that while legislative change will provide the framework within which aquaculture can grow, it will primarily be decisions made at a regional level that determine the nature and pace of growth," he said.

"Hence, funding for the first five years of the new regime will be set aside to support regional councils with the implementation of these reforms."

Mr Heatley expects the Aquaculture Reform Bill to be introduced later this year and enacted early next year.

He told reporters the reforms he had announced today were the second of three cabinet papers that were being considered.

In the next month or two, the Government would look at how the aquaculture reforms fitted into the foreshore and seabed legislation that is being prepared.

"The Maori aquaculture settlement was 20 percent of marine farming space, there's no doubt that the impact of the seabed and foreshore review on aquaculture is significant and we're working on those areas together," he said.

The new foreshore and seabed legislation is going to return to Maori the right to seek customary title to parts of the coastline, and development rights will go with any titles that are granted.

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