Minister Jones – “I’m Happy To Be Back”

There has been a lot of opinions shared of late about new Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Shane Jones – he’s too close to industry, he’s business-first, he doesn’t care about the ocean.

So, what does the Minster have to say about all of this and of his new role? Seafood NZ GM of Communications and Marketing Fiona MacMillan was able to catch up with Minister Jones not long after he was appointed, for a lengthy conversation covering off the Minister’s vision for the industry, aquaculture, trawling, deregulation, discordant voices, and more.

What was clear throughout the interview is that Minister Jones is happy to be back in both politics and in the space of fisheries. He intends to be a voice for industry and will not be afraid to advocate for change where it’s needed. Here’s a small snippet:

“If I can start with aquaculture, I want to be the politician that convinces my colleagues that as pressure grows in terms of our terrestrial industries, we can turn and ranch and farm the ocean. That we in the future will begin to emulate what Norway has achieved in terms of its ocean environment. And that can only be done by stripping the obstacles and creating a facilitating environment through the law that rewards people who are going to make an effort, take a risk and spend money expanding aquaculture out into the ocean.

“On the question of the fin fish, I know that in some respects our wild catch is capped. There’s only so much we can take out of the ocean. But the world is going to need protein. Don’t overlook how popular our products and our exports will be and I want that to increasingly come from fisheries with higher value.

“So underlying all of that is a willingness to be an advocate, is a willingness to be fair and also an acknowledgment that I have to operate in a statutory framework. But if the statutory framework needs to be refined or changed then I’m willing to lead those debates, endeavour to convince my colleagues and keep the confidence of the people at the top of the government, not least of which is the Prime Minister and my own leader and also work with my colleagues from the ACT party, so that they understand that when we are trying to deregulate, deregulate means making it easier for industries to flourish. 

And just because we’re going to do a bit of deregulation, it shouldn’t turn into a catastrophisation that all of a sudden we’re going to plunder Tangaroa, or plunder what’s left of our coastal fish-based resources. And you know, there’s trade-offs. But the industry itself realises there are trade-offs and politicians have to make decisions, but let these decisions in my case be driven by information not just from the loud discordant voices from the NGO sector, but the voices of the industry as well through their various peak bodies.” 

As for the recent media attention, Minister Jones saw this coming back in December.

“The first thing that will be said is that Shane is in the pocket of the industry because they have supported him through donations,” says Minister Jones. 

“That is a legitimate part of the democratic contest. If New Zealanders obeying the law, following the disclosure requirement of a democratic election, want to contribute towards our party or indeed to myself as a candidate, that is fully declared. And people can endeavour to demonise my personality through that association, it however will not dent my professional duty as a senior New Zealand politician to be a steward of the entire sector but also stand up against intimidation…”

“The people in the fishing industry are not bad people. The industry creates a great deal of wealth, a great deal of positive economic output for the industry. They deserve respect and with me at the helm they’re going to find someone who will boost their fortunes in the public discourse.”

The full interview with Minister Jones will be available to read in the next issue of our Seafood Magazine, out in March.

/Public Release. View in full here.