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End slavery in NZ, create 2,500 Kiwi jobs

Written By: - Date published: 2:53 pm, August 7th, 2011 - 25 comments
Categories: Conservation, exports, food, jobs, sustainability, workers' rights - Tags:

Next week, a report will reveal the abuse of 2,500 foreign workers used as virtual slaves on ships employed by kiwi fishing quota holders in our waters. New Zealand has a rich nautical history, world-leading boat-builders, and large fisheries. By rights, we should have a renowned fishing fleet in demand internationally. Instead, we let our potential go to waste and employ foreign slave-owners and human traffickers to do the work instead.

Supposedly, Foreign Charter Vessels are meant to employ their crew on at least the New Zealand minimum wage and to New Zealand workplace regulations. It’s clear, however, that this isn’t happening. Workers are paid a couple of hundred dollars a month and subjected to physical and sexual abuse while living and working in appalling conditions.

We not only let these ships harvest our fish on behalf of the iwi elite (80% of the foreign work is done for iwi quota-holders), we let them moor in our ports and keep their ’employees’ in virtual imprisonment even when docked. To our shame, the US Ambassador on human trafficking has been investigating these ships in New Zealand.

And what happens to the fish? Well, a hell of a lot of it gets wasted. The charter ships come from Korea and elsewhere, sail all the way here and then take their catch to China for processing (so much for valued-added exports, eh?). The economics of this encourage the ships to only keep the highest value fish they catch, dead by-catch and smaller fish are simply dumped leaving more room in the ships’ freezers for higher value fish but multiplying the impact of trawling on the eco-system. This, like paying foreign workers less than New Zealand wages, is illegal but it goes largely unreported. The charter vessels sometimes have New Zealand official observers on board but it’s clear that they are often intimidated into silence and that both Maritime New Zealand and the quota holders are complicit in covering up these crimes.

The industry says they have to employ foreign charter vessels because it’s not worth buying expensive boats that sit idle out of fishing seasons. That’s bollocks. If New Zealand quota-holders bought their own modern vessels (and there’s no reason they couldn’t be built here too), they could do what the Koreans do: fish in other regions during off seasons here. The real reason the industry uses foreign charters is it doesn’t want to invest in capital (an long-running weakness of our crappy management class) and the foreign vessels can do the work cheaper because of the abysmal pay.

It all comes down to money. To doing it cheap and nasty.

It’s staggering that iwi are the main drivers of this, and that Pita Sharples is defending them. Iwi won back their taonga to build and preserve them for future generations, not to make a quick buck now.

This has got to stop. We cannot have Kiwi corporates making a profit off the enslavement of foreigners. We cannot have jobs in New Zealand waters being done by foreigners while quarter of a million Kiwis are out of work. We cannot have our natural resources wasted like this.

I’m so disgusted at the way the quota holders are abusing their workers, the natural resource, and the country that I’d almost call for simply nationalising the quotas and rebuilding the industry from scratch to to run in the long-term interests of the country. Wouldn’t do though, since the biggest quota holders got them through Treaty settlements.

So, that option out, I see a solution on two fronts:

The first is legislating against foreign charter vessels (we don’t have FTAs with the countries they’re coming from) because it’s clear that trying to hold them to New Zealand labour law while they’re in NZ waters isn’t working, and, anyway, it still deprives New Zealand of the income tax from the workers and the downstream jobs from processing the fish.

The second is for the government to help with the capital the industry would need in lieu of the foreign vessels and a bit of a payback for the higher costs the industry would face from employing Kiwis to do the fishing. I’m not talking big handouts. This is a $4 billion a year industry, they can afford to buy their own boats. But the government could give low-interest loans to help the boatbuilding industry here add the capacity for building large fishing vessels and for the quota-holders to buy them. It could also assist in building up the human capital. That investment would be more than recouped by getting a couple of thousand people off the dole and into well-paying (and tax-generating) jobs and it would stop the industry squealing too loudly.

25 comments on “End slavery in NZ, create 2,500 Kiwi jobs ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Can’t believe Iwi corporate and political leaders are turning a blind eye to this. Shame on them and shame on us as a country. There are tens of thousands of young NZers looking for jobs now who could be on those boats doing the work.

    • chris73 1.1

      Why can’t you believe it?

      Personally I think it shows that theres not much difference between pakeha and maori when it comes to business

      • Ianupnorth 1.1.1

        That’s right, greed is great!

        • chris73

          Heres a story for you:

          I’ve been doing some labouring-type work (unskilled if you prefer) at a sub-division being developed by Ngai Tahu, I don’t think theres going to be any low-cost housing for their elders but more importantly I don’t see anyone from the tribe there doing any of the work

          ie no one learning to use a digger, land scape a garden etc etc which I’m pretty sure could have been added easily to any work contract and could have provided work/apprenticeship opportunities for their people

          • Colonial Viper

            One thing is that Ngai Tahu seem to be quite busy putting their young people through law, engineering and medical school.

            • chris73

              Thats all well and good (apart from law) but what about those that arn’t suitable for uni/more practical work-minded

          • prism

            chris 73 I think it’s just too easy to use the business model that very probably they have learned in uni. There is such a snob element about going to uni and learning the clever skills that can be driven from office seats.

            Many of the things that Maori have done in the past are treated as semi-skilled and a feature of NZ attitudes is that manual, semi-skilled work is not valued though requiring not only expertise but fitness, muscle and commitment to getting the job done. Yet we glorify rugby, huge muscles racing across grass, throwing a ball around. It’s hard work, and so is manual work but that is essential for the country, while rugby isn’t. Strange attitudes.

  2. Marjorie Dawe 2

    But a heck of a lot of our workers were made redundant from Sealords in Nelson. Where is the intention from our Iwi leaders to uphold the Kaupapa of the Sealord deal. Where are the additional jobs for Maori and New Zealanders. I agree that they should be ashamed of this sort of economic management which is targeted towards making as much money as possible but is forgetting about the purpose of making the money and who the beneficiaries of the trusts should be.

  3. Gareth 3

    Recreational fisherman have been going on about these issues for years, unfortunatly big dollars which fund bias reports (much like oil) have encouraged successive governments to ignore the issues.

    The whole industry is a disgrace. We are severly depleting our fish stocks to feed other people and to provide bait for overseas lobster fisherman to the benefit of the very few . Some of the people who benfit are one and the same as those that decry the plight of their people.

    If the industry was set up properly it would employ alot of people and prevent a north sea type senario.

  4. Andrei 4

    What did you think would happen when the Government in its infinite wisdom gave Maori Aristocrats, who had no history in the fishing industry, the fishing quotas?


    • prism 4.1

      You are so wise and far-seeing Andrei. In future we will come to you first for your opinion before we do anything.

  5. prism 5

    This is a post who’s time has come. It will be good if this report finally gets some changes. At one time Nick Smith was stirring about this situation. Don’t know what he achieved and why he was bothering. Perhaps because it made him look good to Nelson young men in the industry because he was the MP and Nelson is a big fishing port.

    Encouraging Maori into to training isn’t always easy. They may need to have specially designed courses and mentors to keep them going through to the end. I remember one who was away from home and who couldn’t stick at being away for so long. Homesick. For young men and women that is a hurdle to be jumped. It seems that Sealord and iwi in general have not really used their opportunities to advance the training and employment of Maori fishermen.

    In actual fact Nelson Polytechnic was trying to encourage them as per a government directive when Amaltal (partly owned by Talleys) declared intention of taking them to Court for racism or something. The Polytechnic didn’t have spare money to spend fighting this shit in Court and retired their courses aimed at encouraging Maori into the fishing industry. Amaltal and Talley possibly felt that Maori had been given enough with quota to Sealord and wanted to put a spoke in the wheel so chose the issue of providing special training for Maori and Pacific Islanders. This action stymied the program and probably opened the way for the fishing companies to argue for the need to get working crew from overseas. Despite that this was a good national objective to reduce unemployment of Maori, (and actually there often has been a white backlash against special help for this group).

    This is an excerpt from a paper discussing Maori and Pacific Island employment needs.
    In 1996 when the EEO Advisory Committee, at the University of Auckland, was
    developing a triennial plan for 1997 –1999, they identified training for Maori and
    Pacific Island Staff as a key EEO objective……

    I will just digress further here, to briefly mention a case that went before the
    Complaints Review Tribunal which has caused much misunderstanding about the
    legality of targeted training programmes. The Complaints Review Tribunal
    is the body that determines whether or not there has been a breach of the Human
    Rights Act.
    In 1996 the Tribunal heard the case of Amaltal Fishing Co Ltd v Nelson Polytechnic.
    Amaltal alleged that Nelson Polytechnic had breached section 22 of the Human
    Rights Act 1993 by running a fishing training programme exclusively for Maori
    students. Although the Polytechnic may well have had grounds under section 73 of
    the Human Rights Act for conducting a programme, they did not to respond to the
    allegations or defend their case. In the absence of any defense being presented, the
    Complaints Review Tribunal found in favour of the complainant.
    Accordingly, it was not the nature of the training programme which was found to be
    in breach of the legislation, but rather the failure of the respondent, Nelson
    Polytechnic, to use the exceptions available.

    • Vicky32 5.1

      Encouraging Maori into to training isn’t always easy. They may need to have specially designed courses and mentors to keep them going through to the end. I remember one who was away from home and who couldn’t stick at being away for so long. Homesick. For young men and women that is a hurdle to be jumped. It seems that Sealord and iwi in general have not really used their opportunities to advance the training and employment of Maori fishermen.

      Seriously, why? Pakeha don’t get homesick? That makes no sense to me… Demanding special treatment for Maori students is seriously not a good look – and it reminds me of some injustices I’ve witnessed but won’t go into now…

      • prism 5.1.1

        @ vicky32 – That’s the sort of thinking that puts a stopper on Maori initiatives that recognise the barriers to them advancing. If there is knowledge of problems particular to them and policies act to meet them then great advances can be made. Your common-sense opinions don’t count for much – common-sense doesn’t result in much focussed in-depth thinking, understanding or lateral thinking. You sound like good old Peter Dunne, the common-sense man. Surprising when you can make a very big special case for yourself and others who have similar life experiences to yours.

        • Vicky32

          If there is knowledge of problems particular to them and policies act to meet them then great advances can be made. Your common-sense opinions don’t count for much – common-sense doesn’t result in much focussed in-depth thinking, understanding or lateral thinking. You sound like good old Peter Dunne, the common-sense man.

          Do not compare me to Peter Dunne! If there are problems particular to them (Maori) then state what they are! Homesickness won’t cut it – all kids (potentially) get homesick.
          Will you accuse me of Peter Dunne-ish-ness if I tell you about a white woman at Uni who couldn’t get into a BA social work course because she wasn’t Maori, and who had been abused by a Maori student because she worked with intellectually handicapped Maori, and should not have done because only Maori can work with Maori? WTF? 
          Or the Maori student who suggested that I write her essays for her, so she would pass the course? (She offered to pay me a token amount, but seemed to think that it was her right to have someone else do her written work for her, as being able to produce written work of an acceptable standard was one of the ‘barriers’ to Maori!)

          • prism

            @vicky32 Individual anecdotes. There are such people out there. Maori are clawing their way up from the disdain that has often been handed out to them and some have have even joined gangs and done unspeakable things.

            The approach of needling and criticising whatever approach is used to help Maori get to their rightful place in NZ from as clever hard-working, honest people continues to limit initiatives and keep numbers making changes low. There needs to be on-going funding that is monitored, for the programs offered with the target of positive outcome and less belittling from pakeha.

            And there is no reason why everything should be funded out of iwi reparations either which is another whine that many pakeha advance. Some yes indeed, but Maori should receive a fair deal ensuring they get a reasonable education and job training with opportunities for getting into employment, the same as all young people.

            • Vicky32

              … continues to limit initiatives and keep numbers making changes low. There needs to be on-going funding that is monitored, for the programs offered with the target of positive outcome and less belittling from pakeha.

              You deride my anecdotes, nevertheless they’re based on my experience of Maori studying at tertiary level in the 90s. They’re also true, I assure you..
              Be specific – what initiatives do you recommend? Why do Maori deserve them more than say dyslexic kids, or people with disabilities? It’s as if you’re saying “poor Maori can’t be expected to do as well as us, we’ll have to handicap the whites and give special help to Maori, cos after all, we know (but won’t say) that they’re too dumb (sic) to do it without special help…”
              The woman I mentioned, who wanted me to write her assignments for her was the only Maori on the course who felt she deserved my working for her (significantly, she was pretty middle class!) Initiatives like the one she seemed to want would only breed anger – from whites and Asians, to the people with disabilties on the course, to Maori who didn’t take advantage…

              • prism

                @vicky32 – Referring to an experience as an anecdote doesn’t mean an implication that it is untrue, or even a confused memory. The dictionary says that it is a short account of an incident. What I meant was that what has happened to you personally or what you have been told about is not sufficient background to judge policy decisions on.

                I am not going to discuss any possible initiatives with you because you aren’t looking at the big picture, aren’t able to try for an informed decision about what is needed to achieve Maori success. So I don’t see how it is useful to run anything past you. If you are interested and care about Maori having a ‘fair go’ then you should do some reading about Maori statistics, jail numbers, criminality, lack of literacy and numeracy, bad health etc. And as for the emotional line about ‘special help to Maori’ etc. That is just facile and shallow. There is a big job and it can’t be done quickly, perhaps even in one generation and sometimes there is anger and feelings of entitlement from Maori that irritate pakeha.

                It’s no wonder that the Maori Party went to National in an effort to make a ‘step change’ as they haven’t had much support from most pakeha and Labour has been hesitant to really push forward with targeted policies that appeal to Maori.

  6. millsy 6

    As I said in a previous thread, a whole generation of young New Zealanders have had the prospect of a nautical career closed off to them, and, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old bugger, the dicipline, etc that being part of a ship’s crew provides – many a young man’s life was turned around by career in shipping in the ‘good old days’.

    The issue should not be solely about our fishing industry, it should be about our shipping and nautical industry at a whole.

    Iwi need to start pulling their collective finger out and start training up their own people rather than letting them fester on the dole or in prison.

    • Jim 6.1

      Absolute bullshit Millsy. Fishing schools turn out a large number of youths that get immediate employment. The only unemployed fisher in NZ is one who doesn’t want to work.

      There are also a number of programs where youths have a choice between prison or fishing school.

  7. Afewknowthetruth 7

    In case you missed it:


    The enitre ‘civilised’ world is a huge slave camp, run for the benefit of money-lenders. At the moment western debt slaves are somewhat better off than Asian/African/South American debt slaves.

    Fortunately Peak Oil will soon put an end to stripping the oceans of sea life via deep net trawling.

    • vto 7.1

      Thomas Jefferson, 1790;

      “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and the corporations which grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

      To where we are today when the top 1% of Americans have more wealth than the entire bottom 90%.

  8. davidc 8

    It would be nice to see Hawawira and Sharples step up to the plate and offer policy on what,where and how they will promote Maori youth into these jobs.

    I wont hold my breath tho.

  9. Policy Parrot 9

    The Sealord Deal did not give the tribes carte blanche with regard to fishing. Absolutely they should be using their quotas to provide jobs/careers for their mokopuna first and focus on making money second.

    Kick the foreign ships out of the NZ EEZ – and there is already a legal basis – for violating New Zealand employment law. It will save foreign crews from suffering virtual slavery, and protect our fisheries in the long-term.

  10. Zane 10

    No fisheries subsidies thanks, I dont want my tax dollars funding the depletion of our precious fish stocks which are already being mismanaged.

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