Talley's and unions decry 'slave ships'

Last updated 05:00 12/04/2013
Oyang 75

OYANG 75: South Korean fishing boat fined heavily for dumping waste at sea from secret bilge.

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Fishing giant Talley's Group and the Council of Trade Unions are jointly calling for the Government to move faster to stop slave ships operating in New Zealand waters.

And Talley's boss, Peter Talley, said there should be a set quota for Kiwi workers on fishing ships, which could create another 2000 jobs for New Zealanders, instead of the work being done by foreigners.

Talley's and the CTU both voiced support for a move to put foreign charter vessels under the control of New Zealand labour laws, before Parliament's primary production select committee yesterday.

But both parties want to see the reflagging to come into effect in the next 12 months, not by the 2016 deadline outlined in the draft Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. The aim of the bill is to prevent a repeat of the Oyang 75 case, where 32 Indonesian crew members walked off the Korean boat in 2011 alleging physical and sexual abuse on board.

The ship had been contracted by Kiwi company Southern Storm Fishing. The Oyang 75's four officers were also found guilty of dumping catch and were collectively fined nearly $500,000.

CTU secretary Peter Conway told the select committee there were many more documented cases of foreign charter vessels underpaying crew and forcing them to work in deplorable conditions - abuse which should stop once foreign charter vessels were banned in New Zealand waters.

Talley also called for reflagging to be brought forward.

"If this bill goes through in the way I envisage it going through, or 80 per cent of the way it's drafted, all those rust-buckets operated in New Zealand by the Koreans will have to go home," he said.

The Talley fleet is all New Zealand owned. He also urged lawmakers to go a step further and require all fishing boats to be staffed by a set proportion of New Zealanders, which he envisaged would create up to 2000 jobs and prevent violations of occupational health and safety practices.

"It is wrong that you've got 1500 to 2000 foreign nationals working in our exclusive economic zone when there are so many unemployed people in New Zealand."

Talley said the process could be phased in on the basis of 20 per cent Kiwi crew in the first year, 40 per cent in the second and 60 per cent in the third.

Earlier in the week, at a conference in Auckland, international human trafficking expert Anne Gallagher hailed the proposed foreign charter vessel ban as a world-leading drive to root out a cause of modern-day slavery.

The reflagging bid was not universally welcomed by other fisheries groups. The chief executive of Sealord Group, Graham Stuart, said reflagging was overly onerous to the industry and punished foreign charter vessels that had never broken the law.

The firm runs four foreign charter vessels, three crewed with Ukrainian and Chilean workers, and one with New Zealand staff.

Stuart asked politicians to consider "deeming" a boat instead of reflagging it, effectively putting it under New Zealand legal jurisdiction for a set period, a practice used in Australia.

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Representatives of Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, meanwhile, maintain the proposed regulations would be unfairly applied to its members, where cases of foreign charter vessel abuse had never been found.

The group is calling for the laws to reflect an evidence-based approach as opposed to a risk management approach favoured in the draft.

- Stuff

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