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New report shows positive social impact of aquaculture industry
Harvesting activities performed at a salmon farm in Big Glory Bay, Stewart Island. (Photo Credit: Miles Hewton/ Sanford Ltd Bluff)
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Thursday, June 18, 2015, 23:30 (GMT + 9)

A report commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on the social effects of the Southland aquaculture industry shows that its introduction to this region has been "overwhelmingly" positive.

The report covers 25 years of aquaculture on Stewart Island and Bluff, and is based on research that was conducted earlier this year. It is part of a wider work programme by MPI, which aims to better understand the social and community effects of the aquaculture industry.

Southland was chosen as a case study because its existing aquaculture is well understood commercially and in the community.

The  research included interviews with 66 local businesses, community organisations and 130 industry staff.

Some results showed:
  • 31 per cent of staff reported an increase in self respect;
  • 81 per cent of staff had learned new skills;
  • 70 per cent reported an increase in annual income compared to their previous employment.
Kathy Mansell, Director of Aquaculture, Growth and Innovation said: “This is the first step for MPI in developing a better understanding of a range of social effects and benefits associated with aquaculture.”

“Although it is clear that aquaculture provides employment, MPI wants to better understand the impact on the wider supply chain, what corporate responsibility looks like in the aquaculture industry and what the social effects of aquaculture employment has on local communities,” Mansell added.

The director stressed the importance of the research and its great value in the future by helping communities to better assess the impact of potential new aquaculture developments in specific areas.

“The results of this report are extremely encouraging by clearly illustrating the very positive social impact that the aquaculture industry is having on these communities,” Mansell pointed out.
Environment Southland supported MPI’s research by advising on its survey questions and providing local context information.

Environment Southland Chief Executive Rob Phillips said that with the Government’s interest in expanding aquaculture in New Zealand, it was good to have an understanding of the potential community impacts.

“As a council we enable aquaculture through our Coastal Plan and consent process, and MPI’s research gives us valuable insight into the wider environmental impacts of our decision making on local communities. This includes the economic, social and cultural impacts, which is useful information to have,” Phillips remarked.

Aquaculture processing in Bluff contributes 102 direct jobs and a further 30 jobs from supply chain businesses. On Stewart Island 23 people are employed in direct jobs. The report indicated that aquaculture staff saw themselves as more employable with most staff reporting that they had learnt new skills.

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