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Waitangi chairman seeks pakeha business model

By Jock Anderson

Friday 1st September 2000

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Shane Jones
The future economic growth of fishing resources must be firmly based on straightforward commercial concepts, according to new Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission chairman Shane Jones.

Mr Jones (40) said he favoured an orthodox commercial shareholding approach to fisheries ownership and control, rejecting any system of ownership akin to multiple land holding.

He said the shareholding approach could only be sustained if key stakeholders within Maoridom embraced it.

"But every time I have advanced these ideas they have been rejected," he said.

"The reality is that future wealth-generating opportunities for Maori in the fishing industry are only going to come about through concepts such as critical mass and straightforward commercial ideas," he said.

He said the quota availability in key species was going down - about $133 million a year was lost through orange roughy cuts - and the commercial value of the fisheries settlement diminishing.

Mr Jones said any durable implementation of the fisheries settlement had to be business oriented.

"The commission, or whatever body may replace it, will have to be pro-private enterprise.

"One of the major distractions is that people have seen the commission as a tribunal to define entitlement. A better story would have been to show how, under Sir Tipene O'Regan's leadership, the capital base has grown and more businesses were added to the stable of economic fishing-based assets."

The asset base of the commission is said to be $846 million, three times the initial settlement value.

"That is a better character and image to accentuate in the eyes of our fellow New Zealanders - including the business community."

Mr Jones said the commission's involvement in negotiations over the sale of Brierley Investments' half share in Sealord (the commission owns the other half with pre-emptive purchase rights) was still on track.

He said he did not regard international investment in the fishing industry as bad, provided the capital base arrived at through the treaty process remained safeguarded.

"If there is an opportunity - through international investment and capital - to forge relationships and rationalise the New Zealand end of the industry that's good."

Taking over the hottest seat in the fishing industry - the country's fourth biggest industry - this week Mr Jones backed off his reported suggestion the commission might review the leasehold quota to iwi before season opening on October 1.

He said there was no proposal to radically change or interfere with the allocation of leasehold quota before October 1.

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