Sunday, July 28, 2013
Mike Butler: Fisheries bill exempts tribes
A bill aimed at protecting workers on fishing boats in New Zealand waters has had a last-minute change at select committee stage that would exempt tribal quota owners, some of whom have been linked to some of the worst abuses of the system.
The Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which initially required all quota holders to use New Zealand-flagged vessels by 2016, was amended by parliament's primary production select committee to give the chief executive of the Ministry for Primary Industries the right to grant exemptions to operators whose catch entitlement is ''derived from settlement quota'' - a reference to Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
Glenn Simmonds, an Auckland university researcher who helped expose human rights abuses on foreign charter vessels, said the change “sanctions the continuation of forced labour” by “a privileged group of iwi quota fishers''. (1)
Forced labour is one aspect of abusive fishing practice by foreign charter vessels that includes overfishing, illegal dumping, and misreporting catch.
Appalling conditions on foreign charter boats first became public when on August 18, 2010, 38-year-old Korean fishing boat Oyang 70 sank at 4.40am in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740km east of Otago. It went down when its skipper rejected warnings his net was too large. (2)
Five Oyang 75 crew members were found guilty of fishing offences in June of last year and the Ministry for Primary Industry has seized another Oyang ship, the Oyang 77 berthed at Lyttelton, and charged its captain and factory manager with illegal dumping and misreporting the vessel's catch. (3)
The Oyang 75 and the Oyang 70 were chartered by Southern Storm Fishing Ltd, which was formed as a joint venture between a South Korean born New Zealand citizen who owned 75 percent and the South Korean Oyang Corporation which owned the remainder. (4)
The South Korean entrepreneur was also listed as a director of Tu’Ere Fishing Ltd along with a person associated with Ngati Tama, the tribe that lost all of a $14.5-million Treaty of Waitangi payout. (5)
The exemption for tribes was unexpected, especially after Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced in May of this year that foreign-flagged fishing vessels would no longer be able to legally operate in New Zealand waters after a four-year transition period. (6)
Where the push for the tribal exemption came from has not been reported, although one member of the primary products select committee, Labour list MP Shane Jones, is known for his work as chairman of the Waitangi Fisheries Commission and was Associate Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations in the Clark Labour government. (7)
A report on the Fairfax-owned Stuff news website, which included contributions from Michael Field who has covered the foreign charter vessels story for years, noted that last year several tribal corporations privately warned the Government that if they lost the rights to foreign charter vessels they would re-open the treaty fisheries settlement and seek $300-million in compensation for lost revenues. (8)
Reporter Yvonne Tahana, for the APN-owned New Zealand Herald, went straight to Ngapuhi's Sonny Tau, who is the spokesman for tribal chairmen on the issue, presenting the argument for tribal interests. Tau said the 2020 exemption was essential because without it Maori fishing interests guaranteed under the Sealords deal would be severely devalued, adding that not a single tribe could afford to buy a ship, which was why fishing ventures with foreign vessels were key. (9)
Tahana had no mention of the $300-million compensation threat.
Field found that Ngati Porou Seafoods in Gisborne uses foreign vessels, including, at one stage, the ill-fated Korean Oyang 70. Tainui's Raukura Moana Fisheries uses ageing Ukrainian boats, while Ngai Tahu no longer engages directly in deepwater fishing. Ngapuhi has a 50/50 joint-venture company, Northland Deepwater JV Ltd, with DSM Ltd, an Auckland firm. Hawke’s Bay's Ngati Kahungunu opted out of fishing its own quota, in favour of a deal with Northland Deepwater. (10)
The demand for a tribal exemption reflects the privilege written into law under the 1992 commercial fisheries deal worth $170-million including quota, a 50 percent shareholding in Sealord Fisheries, and cash.
That deal resulted from a blatant try-on that started with Far North tribes upset that those who supplemented their income with part-time fishing were not given quota when the quota system to manage New Zealand’s fisheries was introduced. These tribes, under the collective title Muriwhenua, in 1985 filed a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal that the fishing quota scheme created a property right in the sea from which they were excluded, thus contravening Article 2 of the treaty.
This claim went down the now well-trodden path of gaining a sympathetic ruling from the Waitangi Tribunal, gaining a High Court injunction to stop the quota scheme, and settling for substantial compensation.
Prime Minister John Key indicated on Friday night his discomfort with the exemption, which is still to go before parliament. (11)
The push for an exemption and the threatened demand for compensation is yet another tribal try-on. Any political leader would have difficulty defending the well-documented abuses by foreign charter vessels, many of which are hired by tribal corporations. Successive governments will keep going down this path until some administration with a bit of courage simply says no.
1. Concern at last minute law change, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8972144/Concern-at-last-minute-law-change
2. Foreign flagged fishing boats to be banned, http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/6965223/Foreign-flagged-fishing-boats-to-be-banned
3. Govt seeking return of Korean trawler, Three News, http://www.3news.co.nz/Govt-seeking-return-of-Korean-trawler/tabid/423/articleID/259047/Default.aspx
4. Submission by Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd to the mistrial inquiry into foreign charter vessels. October 7, 2011.
5. Tu’Ere Fishing Ltd, http://opencorporates.com/companies/nz/1744321
6. Foreign flagged fishing boats to be banned, http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/6965223/Foreign-flagged-fishing-boats-to-be-banned
7. Primary production select committee, http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/mpp/mps/current/?pf=committeeshortname&sf=primary+production&lgc=0
8. Concern at last minute law change, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8972144/Concern-at-last-minute-law-change
9. Maori quota holders sidestep foreign-worker law, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10903916
10. Iwi blamed for state of fishery, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4976300/Iwi-blamed-for-state-of-fishery
11. Concern at last minute law change, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8972144/Concern-at-last-minute-law-change
at 12:29 PM