Friday, August 2, 2013

Mike Butler: Fisheries favouritism pondered

A clause exempting iwi quota holders from having to use New Zealand-flagged boats after 2016 remains in the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill despite an indication from Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy that the amended bill would not stamp out bad behaviour.

The exemption for tribal owners of fishery quota until 2020 was included in the bill that would require all fishing vessels to re-flag and register in New Zealand by 2016. Tribal corporations claimed it would be uneconomical to fish the quota if they could not continue to use foreign vessels.

Guy indicated on Thursday that "it is important for our trading partners to know that we have unequivocally stamped out bad behaviour on our waters. I don't think the amended bill, as it stands, meets this objective." (1) But on Friday he confirmed the exemption was still in. (2)

The comment came after sharp criticism from ACT Leader John Banks, Talley's Group managing director Peter Talley, Council of Trade Unions' Maori spokesman Syd Keepa, the Dominion Post, and the New Zealand Centre for Political Research.

Talley said that an exemption that would allow abusive labour practices to continue on foreign charter vessels could spark international boycotts of New Zealand fishing product.

"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," he said. (3)

The problem with foreign charter vessels became visible in 2010 when the Korean boat named Oyang 70 sank off Otago while trying to hoist aboard an overloaded net, resulting in the deaths of six crew members. A year ago, five crew members of another boat, the Oyang 75, were convicted for and face fines of up to $250,000 after throwing 405 tonnes of low-value fish, still worth as much as $1.4-million, overboard and not reporting it.

The Oyang 75 and the Oyang 70 were chartered by Southern Storm Fishing Ltd, a joint venture involving a South Korean born New Zealand citizen who 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. (4)

Last year, several tribal corporations privately warned was 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. (5)

On Wednesday, Nga Puhi leader Sonny Tau repeated the $300-million-loss claim. Tau also confirmed it was his tribe and their lawyers who succeeded in winning the late exemption for tribal corporations to be allowed to continue using foreign charter ships after 2016. (6)

Further bad news for tribal quota holders broke last week with reports that Sealord, the tribal co-owned deep sea fishing company, was on the verge of either a fire-sale of its Argentina hoki operation or forcing it into bankruptcy and walking away. This means there will be no dividend this year - the first time one has not been paid since 2001. (7)

Coverage of the foreign charter vessel exemption story showed up flaws in television news reporting. The One News 6pm bulletin on Tuesday suggested that Talleys were lobbying for an exemption to continue to use foreign charter vessels when they in fact actively oppose them. It ignored the tribal exemption.

The next night One News had to air an abject apology, to make clear that One News didn’t mean to suggest that the Talley’s Group or family was involved in lobbying for any exemptions. It appeared that One News did the item without putting the question to Talleys.

Moreover, the One News apology mirrored an apology from the Green Party. Therefore, it appears that One News is in also the habit of reproducing Green Party press releases as fact – which goes a long way to explaining the bias and selective reporting on that news show. (8)

Meanwhile, will the tribal exemption stay or go? My guess is that Minister Nathan Guy is awaiting a decision from his superior that would give the appearance of ending slave labour on the high seas while keeping tribal quota holders on side.

Sources 1. Exemption for Maori quota to go,
2. Foreign fishing boat clause still in,
3. $300-million at stake if FCVs forced out,
4. Tu’Ere Fishing Ltd,
5. Concern at last minute law change,
6. $300 million at stake if FCVs forced out,
7. Sealord faces $40m loss from failed firm,


Graeme said...

Thanks Mike. My guess is that retaining an exemption for the foreign vessels was a bridge to far even for this Government. I am sure that you are right about the compensation claims though and no doubt the current crop of spineless politicians will cave in as usual.

Derek Williams said...

Its an extension from customary rights rhort where Maori issue permits to themslves to gather under sized crayfish by the truckload.

If the rest of us did the same we would get big fines and loose our vehicles and boats.

It's a blueprint for bloodshed in the streets