The obligations of the Aquaculture Settlement

The Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 provided a full and final settlement of all Māori claims to commercial aquaculture space created since 21 September 1992.

Through the Act, Iwi are to receive aquaculture settlement assets representative of 20 per cent of all space approved for aquaculture development. As approval of aquaculture space takes place under the Resource Management Act 1991, all aquaculture settlements are regionally based on council boundaries.

There are now three phases of the settlement and for Iwi these can be characterised by their delivery mode – past, present and future.

Pre-commencement space

Aquaculture approved under the regime operating from 22 September 1992 to 31 December 2004 (just prior to the commencement of the Settlement Act) is referred to as the pre-commencement phase.

The Act provided for Iwi to receive settlement assets equivalent to 20 per cent of the representative value of all space approved during through the pre-commencement phase through either the approval of space after 2004 under the new regime from that time, purchase of marine farms or cash. There were several practical obstacles preventing settlement obligations being in the form of space and so all pre-commencement phase obligations were taken as cash.

Interim AMA Space: 2005 – 2011

Aquaculture approved under the regime operating from 1 January 2005 until 30 September 2011 is referred to as the interim AMA phase.

In this phase Iwi were to receive authorisations to apply for resource consents for a representative 20 per cent of aquaculture space in any approved Aquaculture Management Area at the same time as its approval. Iwi would need to apply for resources consents themselves and get approval from MPI under the Undue Adverse effects test but the AMA regime meant most of this was completed and straightforward (akin to a non-notified controlled activity by the time an authorisation was given.

New Space: 2011 – current

Aquaculture approved after 1 October 2011 is referred to as the new space phase.

In this current phase, the Iwi of a region are to receive settlement assets that are equivalent to the value of 20% of the representative value of all aquaculture development in a region. This is formalised through entering into Regional Aquaculture Agreements with the Crown.

This phase of the settlement is forecasted, with the Crown providing Iwi with access to assets prior to development occurring. The amount of assets is based on forecasts of national development and demand for aquaculture by species.  For the period between 2011 and 2035, the Ministry for Primary Industries worked with experts and Iwi to forecast the national growth in demand for salmon, green lipped mussels and pacific oysters. Once the forecast was agreed, a valuation model was built for each species that considered the timing of development and variations in regional costs.  This model was refined and agreed between the Crown and Iwi. It was then used to determine the overall financial equivalent that Iwi would receive in 2015 for the various regional settlements if cash was taken.

In the new space phase, Iwi in a region can choose how they will receive the settlement assets – as authorisations for space inside an Aquaculture Settlement Area (if established, these areas give Iwi the exclusive right to apply for consent for aquaculture activities within that space), cash or a combination of both. These provisions are supporting the greater involvement of Iwi in the aquaculture industry, although the uncertainty of future space provision has meant that some groups have accepted money in lieu of space.