Legislation not `silver bullet' for fishing

22:23, Nov 17 2010

New aquaculture legislation will not open the door for a marine farming version of Fonterra, an industry leader says.

Speaking at the New Zealand Aquaculture Conference, Sealord chief executive Graham Stuart said the perception that new legislation would pave the way for open slather on finfish farming was incorrect.

Capital investment, distance to market and the cost of importing food were all major hurdles.

Legislation was introduced into Parliament this month to amend laws covering aquaculture, replacing a regulatory framework, which has seen no new sea space allocated since it was introduced in 2004.

The legislation received its first reading on Monday night and is expected to pass into law next year.

The aquaculture industry was at a crossroads, but the legislation was not the silver bullet many in the industry believed, Mr Stuart said.

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"Somehow people seem to think that by removing that [regulatory barrier] you're opening everything up, when you're just opening a door to another door."

A 5000 tonne per annum finfish operation would require an estimated $80 million investment before it started making money, he said. That sort of money was hard to come by in New Zealand, he said.

However Sealord, a joint venture between Maori and Nissui of Japan, which turned over $584.8 million in the last financial year, would look seriously at establishing farms in New Zealand once the legislation passed.

The company, which already farmed fish in Australia, was involved in research with Niwa into farming hapuku (groper).

Parts of the Marlborough Sounds were good for farming salmon, but he was unsure whether hapuku would grow well there, he said.

The warmer waters of the east coast of the North Island might be a better fit, he said.

About 90 per cent of mussel farms in the Marlborough Sounds were not suitable for finfish farming, he said. Mussels had a "bright future" and would continue to be a "mainstay" of the New Zealand aquaculture industry, he said.

New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the new legislation opened the door for expansion and it would be great if the company could grow to own about 15 hectares of water space.

Currently the company produced about 7.5 tonnes of salmon annually on 5ha of water space in the Marlborough Sounds, Mr Rosewarne said. The growth could see company triple its annual turnover from about $115m annually to about $500m, he said.

"We believe we can get to the stage to set up feed here in New Zealand."

The company's core markets were New Zealand, Australia, US and Japan, but there was big potential in China, Asia and Europe.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said the new legislation was an exciting time for the aquaculture industry, but it was up to each company how they invested.

"They need to do their numbers, we need to do a lot more in terms of economic development, but this [legislation] is the biggest leap forward we've seen for a long time."

The Marlborough Express