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Minister for the Environment David Parker in Invercargill (Photo: video ODT)

Minister David Parker says aquaculture no substitute for Tiwai

Click on the flag for more information about New Zealand NEW ZEALAND
Thursday, September 17, 2020, 14:50 (GMT + 9)

Aquaculture will not fill the Tiwai-shaped gap in the Southland economy, the export minister says, according to the local newspaper The New Zealand Herald.

The industry's future was discussed during a breakfast with Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker and the local business community yesterday.

During a question and answer session, Southland Aquaculture Working Group member Rex Chapman said it had worked for years to encourage aquaculture growth and the 2019 Aquaculture Strategy was "tailor-made" for the region.

However, the regulatory framework impeded growth.

"The RMA has not worked for many parts of New Zealand and that is very true of aquaculture."

He asked Parker what the plan was. The minister responded there was progress being made, which included the National Environmental Standards on renewals for existing in-shore aquaculture.

However, Parker said an issue to be "worked out" was if aquaculture participants using public space would be required to pay for it.

"I think if they come forward with some ideas as to a rent they might pay, that will prevent the risk of land banking, or sea-bed banking, and some of the other things will flow more easily."

That rent could be based on revenue or profit, but the minister was having discussions with those in the industry.

"It is true there is significant potential for deep-sea aquaculture and, done well, it will bring jobs and earn export revenues and it won't have a significant impact on the environment."

The Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is an aluminium smelter owned by Rio Tinto Group (79.36%) and the Sumitomo Group (20.64%), via a joint venture called New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) Limited.

The facility, New Zealand's only aluminium smelter, is at Tiwai Point, near Bluff. 

On 9 July 2020, Rio Tinto announced that the smelter would close in August 2021

The company stated that 1000 jobs would be directly lost from the closure, and 1600 jobs indirectly connected to the smelter would also be under threat. The decision followed a 25% decrease in aluminium prices over the prior 18 months, and increasing power costs. Rio Tinto intends to close the smelter in August 2021

The Southland Aquaculture Working Group is calling on the Government to pass a special legislation for open-ocean salmon farms that could help fill the economic gap left by Tiwai closing down.

Group chairman Mark O’Connor said sustainable aquaculture, particularly high-value ocean salmon farming, has been identified as Southland’s best near-term economic opportunity.

But O’Connor said it was also critical that the smelter kept running for the next few years.

“The Tiwai jobs must be secured for at least 5-10 years to enable scaling of the aquaculture industry.”

“Scaling aquaculture and achieving 400-500 jobs will take at least five years, and scaling to 800 jobs within 10 years, so we need to work collaboratively and with great urgency.”

“But aquaculture is also not a short-term fix and will not replace the 2000-plus job losses from the closure of Tiwai next year” finished Mark O'Connor.

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