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Ellison: Engagement key to moving forward key issues

Monday 18 December 2017

A few weeks after the election and things remain very interesting for the seafood sector. 

Primarily we have a new and dedicated Minister of Fisheries – and congratulations to Stuart Nash who has fishing as part of a significant ministerial portfolio load. 

And farewell to Nathan Guy who had overseen the primary industries portfolio under the National government. It would seem democratic systems consistently favour change, and the consequences that follow that. 

So a major change that affects the sector deeply is the extraction of fisheries out of MPI. 

I think it a strong move to separate (at least operationally in the first instance) fisheries out from the super ministry that is MPI. Under the previous administration New Zealand has seen two super ministries created (MBIE being the other) and while bold moves, the results have been indifferent for our sector. 

In particular we have struggled in achieving engagement around a raft of issues that confronted us. From the Kermadec sanctuary proposal, through FooF and IEMRS the seafood sector struggled to find opportunities for real and meaningful opportunities to engage, discuss and agree on solutions. It would be easy to personalise these difficulties, but I would rather note that with such a significant collection of businesses and sectors in one ministry, it resulted in focus often being distracted, as well as sheer ministry size causing a lack of flexibility and agility. 

Is it a case of back to the future? Rather I would hope it leads to a well performing ministry devoted to encourage rights owners to get the economic best out of the sector that sustainability and environmental considerations allow. 

So what then are the characteristics I would look for in a separate Fisheries Ministry?:

· Flexibility - to arrive at practical and appropriate solutions

· Agility – to move quickly to allow for better fisheries management decisions to be enacted

· Focus – ensuring we are not lost in the noise of fake news, uninformed commentary and ideological agendas

· Solutions driven – rather than seeing process as an outcome

· Supportive – we are an industry sector to be proud of – and we deserve support where and when necessary 

· Understanding – we have started the Promise – we would hope the ministry both supports the Code of Conduct, and challenges our performance against the standards we have set ourselves. 

And largely those are also the characteristics I am hopeful of seeing in our new minister! 

To that I would add the desire for both the minister and the seafood sector to be critical friends – ready to be robust and truthful in any engagement, and supporting each other to succeed. 

At Seafood New Zealand we look forward to being that friend. 

-  Seafood New Zealand executive chair Craig Ellison

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