Unlocking aquaculture’s potential for Iwi development and economic growth

The New Zealand government has set an ambitious target to significantly expand the aquaculture industry and grow seafood exports to $3 billion annually by 2035.

Currently valued at $1 billion, the aquaculture industry offers massive potential for Iwi development and economic growth, and is fast becoming a major sector in Te Waiariki rohe.

Te Arawa Fisheries, on behalf of Ngā Iwi i Te Rohe o Te Waiariki (NIOW), have made significant progress on aquaculture kaupapa to unlock the full potential of aquaculture in the Eastern Bay of Plenty rohe.

Key workstreams include the Waiariki Commercial Aquaculture Project, which will also help inform and guide local Iwi in their negotiations relating to the Māori Aquaculture Settlements.

The multi-stage project aims to grow a thriving and sustainable aquaculture industry, creating high-value careers for Māori in the sector; and harnessing the cutting-edge technology and expertise available to us.

More recently, Te Arawa Fisheries received $600,000 funding through Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund (SFFF), which builds on the $200,000 already committed by local iwi, to progress stage four of the project which aims to produce up to two potential investment opportunities for presentation to Iwi and potential investors.

Stage four will see several key milestones executed over the next 12-months, including the upcoming ‘Te Haerenga Ahumoana’ field trip, an exclusive four-day haerenga where iwi representatives will take a deep-dive into the heart of Aotearoa New Zealand’s thriving and innovative aquaculture industry, observe international-standard aquaculture operations first-hand, and take that knowledge back to their iwi, hapū, marae and whānau.

Te Arawa Fisheries CEO, Chris Karamea Insley says that “exposing our people to global best-practice equips iwi with the knowledge and networks to lead this mahi locally, while empowering iwi to make sustainable choices that shape both our industry and communities for generations.

“Additionally, this project will provide iwi with valuable knowledge and insights as we progress through the Aquaculture settlements within our rohe.

However, major obstacles face the industry’s growth aspirations.

In a recent podcast episode of RNZ’s The Detail ‘Is fish the new farming frontier for New Zealand?’, the panel unpacks the opportunities and challenges within our aquaculture industry, acknowledging the value of Māori mātauranga and native species in boosting the industry, but also the red tape within the resource consent application process and the strict regulations around environmental impacts, which discourage the much-needed industry investment.

“If regulatory barriers are addressed through rule reforms, iwi are well placed to fully participate in the fast-growing blue economy,” says Mr Insley.

More information, including regular updates and an outline of all the stages of the project,  can be found on the Smart Māori aquaculture website.

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