MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
The trawler Tasman Viking, owned by Westfleet Seafoods, is currently moored in the Port of Nelson due to rising fuel prices.
A major figure in New Zealand’s fishing industry warns that more boats could be tied up and the price of fish and chips will double unless the sector receives the same fuel aid as others.
Already, the 400-tonne Westfleet Seafoods trawler, Tasman Viking, has been moored in the Port of Nelson for a fortnight due to soaring fuel prices.
The company’s chief executive, Craig Boote, said unless the government comes clean and applies fuel discounts to all New Zealand businesses, the fishing industry could be on its knees in a few weeks.
“The price of fish and chips will double,” he said.
Boote owns Westfleet Seafoods in a partnership with Nelson-based Sealord. Westfleet is Greymouth’s second largest employer, owning and operating a fish processing plant in Greymouth Harbor where four of its fishing vessels are based.
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Its fifth and largest vessel, the 38m Tasman Viking, is based in Nelson, employing 11 crew and directly creating 22 jobs ashore in the factory, Boote said. It is one of two boats from major fishing companies to be grounded due to crippling fuel costs, which has been devastating to employees and their families, he said.
He said Westfleet trawlers, which supplied New Zealand and export markets and are powered by diesel, were now going to sea and returning a serious loss which could not be sustained. Tasman Viking’s crew are retained by Westfleet and the boat would sail again when the fishing improved, so fuel was not wasted, Boote said.
“Fuel is an important part of our business operations and without reduction the price of fish will unfortunately skyrocket,” he said.
“The only other option is to moor the boats, which of course has a snowball effect, with jobs ashore in the factory, engineering and more being negatively affected.”
The company’s fleet of vessels is maintained by Aimex Service Group in Nelson.
Boote said short-term petrol rebates and road charges for diesel vehicles would be reviewed by the government next month, and he urged the government to ‘step back’ and acknowledge that the tax suspensions do not offered no benefit to the fishing industry, farmers or others such as off-road machinery operators.
“There are hundreds of millions of liters of fuel used every year by companies that employ thousands of people,” he said. “We have been completely ignored by the latest government fuel aid, and fuel prices are spiraling out of control.”
He said Westfleet was “not looking for help”, but he believed the existing fuel aid targeted only a fraction of fuel users and was unfair, disregarding primary producers who were not using fuel. roads.
“The government must have the same discount on petrol as diesel, so that all fuel users in New Zealand are treated the same.”
He said the government’s response was to switch to a more fuel-efficient way of catching fish.
“In some fisheries it may work, but most of the fish caught in New Zealand is done by trawling. Simply put, if someone says they can be fished without trawling, they should put their money where their mouth is and tell me how?”
Sealord chief executive Doug Paulin said Sealord was concerned about the high cost of fuel and was analyzing the operational costs of all of its ships.
“If fuel costs don’t come down anytime soon, we may not be able to operate some of our vessels at certain times. We are certainly watching developments closely,” Paulin said.