Iwi exemption threatens NZ fisheries: Talley

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 16:46 30/07/2013

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Changes to a bill that will let iwi continue using "slave labour" to fish in deepwater are abhorrent and a scam, the owner of a leading New Zealand fishing company says.

If the bill becomes law New Zealand would face international boycotts of its fishing products, said Peter Talley, chief executive of Nelson-based Talley's Group.

"It is a national scandal that Maori, given settlement quota for the purpose of bringing young Maori into the business of fishing, are now given a preferential right to use Third World foreign labour to harvest those very resources," Talley said.

Under the redrafted Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which he called "racially biased legislation", 35 per cent of New Zealand's entire fishing resource, being iwi owned, could be fished by foreign charter vessels (FCV), Talley said.

After exposure of appalling human and labour rights abuses aboard FCVs, which mostly fish iwi quota, the Government last year introduced a bill that would require all fishing boats to be New Zealand-flagged by 2016.

But last week, the primary production select committee changed the bill to allow iwi with Treaty of Waitangi settlement quota the right to continue using FCVs.

Talley has strongly opposed FCVs and made submissions to the committee against them.

In a letter to Prime Minister John Key he called the change a scam perpetrated by foreign vessel owners.

"This situation will still allow them to cheat on wages and simply allow the vessel owners and their New Zealand agents to run up the drainpipes when being investigated ... for wage irregularities," Talley said.

"This exemption amendment means that forced labour has been legalised in New Zealand for all those companies utilising Maori quota."

He said a Korean vessel could go to sea with 1000 tons of Maori settlement quota and 4000 tons of non-Maori quota. "Is the entire 5000 tons able to be caught with a foreign-flagged vessel?"

What the select committee had done was a travesty, Talley said.

It was now only a distant hope that the use of slave labour in New Zealand would end, he added.

He noted US President Barack Obama had warned that those involved in slave use and human trafficking would face sanctions.

"We have received warnings from our own United States agents that they will not deal with New Zealand product unless the situation is corrected and we are aware that there are NGOs waiting in the wings to launch boycott programmes against New Zealand produce if FCV operations continue," Talley said.

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"There's no place for floating sweatshops in the New Zealand fishery.

"I think most of Maoridom, especially those looking for and to create jobs, will find it abhorrent that Maori have special exemption to use foreign crew over New Zealanders."

- Fairfax Media

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