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Source: New Zealand Government

The government is proposing changes to aquaculture legislation to improve the process for allocating and transferring aquaculture assets to iwi.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has introduced the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Amendment Bill to Parliament.

It proposes a limited new discretionary power for Te Ohu Kaimoana Trustee Limited (ToKM). ToKM allocates and transfers aquaculture assets under the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 (Settlement Act).

“The proposed Bill will improve the allocation and transfer of Māori commercial aquaculture settlement assets to iwi,” Mr Nash said.

“Until now, some aspects of the original 2004 Settlement Act have prevented some iwi from accessing and developing their aquaculture assets, such as marine farming space.

“The changes will ensure iwi aquaculture organisations can access their settlement assets within an appropriate timeframe, if they wish to do so. It also protects the interests of iwi who do not wish to claim their aquaculture settlement assets.

“Iwi play an important role in New Zealand’s sustainable and innovative aquaculture sector and this will support them to acquire and develop their commercial interests. This will further support iwi involvement in our growing aquaculture industry.

“Aquaculture contributes significantly to regional development. It can grow sustainably without compromising environmental and climate goals. In 2018, it generated over $600 million in revenue and employed 3,000 people in the regions.

“The Government already has an Aquaculture Strategy and plans to grow the sector five-fold to $3 billion by 2035. This would be accelerated well ahead of the current 2035 target through the Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential initiative,” Mr Nash said.

Fisheries New Zealand publicly consulted between November 2019 and February 2020 on options to improve the allocation and transfer process provided in the Settlement Act.

The Parliamentary calendar prior to the General Election means the Bill will not have a first reading, or be sent to a Select Committee for public submissions, till after the new Parliament convenes. However interested parties now have access to the legislation itself, which allows them to consider the proposals and begin work to prepare their submissions.

The bill can be found here.

Questions and Answers

1. What is the background to the original Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004?

In 2004, legislation was passed for full and final settlement of commercial aquaculture claims under the Treaty since 1992.

The Crown accepted an obligation to provide iwi with 20 per cent of the value of all marine aquaculture space. It provided for allocation of aquaculture assets, such as authority to develop aquaculture space, a cash equivalent, or both.

ToKM, as corporate trustee of the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Settlement Trust, was given a statutory role to administer settlement assets in accordance with the 2004 Act.

Māori now have a significant presence in the aquaculture industry. The total industry generates revenue of around $600 million a year and employs around 3,000 people, mostly in regional New Zealand.

2Has the 2004 legislation worked as intended?

The fundamental provisions of the Settlement Act are sound. But there is room for improvement in some areas.

In June 2018, ToKM asked the Fisheries Minister to improve the allocation process so that all relevant iwi could access their aquaculture settlement assets.Some iwi have expressed frustration at being unable to access their assets because of delays in reaching agreement within regions on how assets should be allocated amongst them.

Public consultation on a possible way forward was held between November 2019 and February 2020. In May 2020, Cabinet agreed that new legislation would be drafted to enable improvements.

The changes in the Amendment Bill do not alter the core elements of the original legislation or the dispute resolution process, which includes reference to the Māori Land Court.

3. What are the safeguards in the proposed changes to legislation?

The proposed changes will give ToKM a limited discretionary power to allocate aquaculture assets where:

  • it is clear that all iwi in a region are unable to reach agreement about how the aquaculture settlement assets should be allocated amongst them; or
  • ToKM is satisfied that it is unable to make a determination on aquaculture settlement allocation entitlements because it has not been able to recognise an iwi aquaculture organisation for one or more iwi; and
  • ToKM is satisfied that the dispute resolution process provided in the Settlement Act has not been used in the situation or if it has been used, it has been unable to resolve the issue.

The changes will allow iwi organisations to access their aquaculture assets, while also protecting the assets of iwi who do not wish to claim their aquaculture assets.

The proposal is consistent with the Treaty and its principles as it provides scope for both iwi and the Crown to act in good faith and in partnership.

ToKM would continue to facilitate processes between relevant iwi in a region to reach agreement. Any disputed assets would be held by ToKM until relevant iwi organisations can reach agreement.