A balance has to be found between the needs of bach and boat owners and of marine farmers, says Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Gary Hooper.
The $400 million aquaculture industry - which is aiming to hit an annual revenue of $1 billion by 2025 - will gather in Nelson this week for its annual conference, the theme of which is "sustainable growth".
"People need to better understand that water space is a common resource and the New Zealand Government has to work out how it best applies that resource for the benefit of the whole country," said Hooper. "There's a bunch of people in New Zealand who - if they've got a boat or a launch or a yacht - think it's their divine right to sail into any bay, anywhere in New Zealand, moor up and not have anything in their way."
Mr Hooper and the industry must also remember their place. They are late-comers and other rights and uses have been long established over the stretches of water they covet.
Aquaculture involves the prohibition of people from a marine area and the ability for private interests to control and use the space for their profit. This privatisation of a "common resource" is actually a confiscation. The government has curtailed and over-ridden Maori rights in order to establish the current regime. They have co-opted coastal Maori into the system (but on the government's terms) so Iwi are also part of the industry (whether they like the terms or not). The allocation of space (dependent though it may be on resource management stipulations and operational requirements and targets) has created a property right in the marine space and it is a value that can be divisible and tradable. In other words a market. These are the consequences of the way in which the government has structured this latter-day gold rush.
As with the crony capitalist quota give-aways to the big fishing companies in the 80s this round of give-aways takes on the same colour as the big boys have moved in and staked their claims ready for the government rubber stamp. As soon as these areas are allocated they become property and games start being played.
Hooper said reaching the realistic $1 billion mark required securing additional water space, increased productivity and exporting more value-added products.
More, more, more! Never mind there isn't enough capital or other resources to have developed the thousands of hectares already allocated, they want more water space. More free money for them. Mr Hooper is right, the industry could do with more government funding and development (esp. for exporting) and private investment, but that is only part of the story. This is a big, ugly carve up.