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‘They left us hanging … why can’t they help us out’

Between Akitio and Palliser, about 15 tonnes of crayfish would be carried forward next season. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

CRAYFISH INDUSTRY
Rollover quota not enough

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
[email protected]

Government efforts to support the crayfish industry will not be enough to stop some businesses from going under, Wairarapa fishermen and industry leaders warn.

The government announced it would allow for 10 per cent of this year’s uncaught rock lobster harvest to be carried into the next fishing year which starts on April 1 to help provide relief for those hard hit by the containment measures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Wairarapa-based rock lobster fisherman Johnny Burkhart said he was disappointed with Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash’s response and did not feel enough was being done to support those in the industry.

“He’s not focusing on the reality of our industry and our community,” he said.

Burkhart, who has been in the industry for 20 years, said the coronavirus outbreak had come at the worst time possible.

Many fishermen in the industry leave 25 per cent of their allocated catch for this time of year due to demand from the Asian market over Chinese New Year.

He worried about the toll it would take on young operators in particular.

“We don’t have the same commodity and borrowing power behind us,” he said.

“If you hurt the young people just getting into the industry, they’ll change industries.”

The government’s delayed response also seemed at odds with Australian counterparts, who announced a 100 per cent rollover two weeks after the effects of the epidemic began to be noticed.

Burkhart said he thought the New Zealand government could do more.

“They left us hanging.

In Wairarapa, from Akitio to Palliser, about 15 tonnes of crayfish would be carried forward but another 25 tonnes would be forfeited.

“They helped the farming and forestry industries out. Why can’t they help us out?”

Even with the quota rollover, he had heard of at least two operators in the region who would be closing and warned there would be other losses.

“It will take a long time to recover.”

Fellow Wairarapa fisherman, Richard Kibblewhite, of Splashzone, said the announcement meant they could get on with the job.

“It doesn’t go all the way to solving the issues,” he said.

“It is a compromise but I’m grateful there’s an answer.”

The chief executive of the New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council, Mark Edwards, agreed the decision provided certainty about the quota rollover for those in the industry and would allow businesses to “partially buffer” the full impact.

He said the limited carry forward agreed by the government represented about 120 tonnes across the nine rock lobster management areas and about $14 million in export revenue.

For the CRA4 catchment area, which included Wairarapa, Wellington, and Hawke’s Bay, 18 tonnes would be carried forward of the 68.4 tonnes of unused catch entitlement from this year’s quota.

In Wairarapa,from Akitio to Palliser, about 15 tonnes would be carried forward but another 25 tonnes would be forfeited.

Edwards said these losses would compound the hardships faced by many small business operators.

The industry would be looking for answers about the rationale for limiting the carry forward of unused entitlements, he said.

“Information we have does not support a suggestion there would be sustainability issues in allowing full carry forward of unused ACE [annual catch entitlements].”

Nash said the decision came after a short consultation process in which 370 submissions were received from a range of interest groups.

“I agreed with the 10 per cent carry-forward, as it is in line with previous decisions about other fish stocks in the quota management system,” Nash said.
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