The move to ban foreign flagged fishing vessels from New Zealand waters is being welcomed by Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck.
Craig, founder of Slave Free Seas which lobbies for the rights of fishing crews, says the announcement is a victory for human rights and moves to stop abuse and mistreatment on fishing vessels.
Craig Tuck is pleased with the move to ban foreign flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand.
“We’ve been working towards that goal for a long time now, a team of lawyers here in New Zealand and overseas.
“The party has essentially finished, in terms of foreign charter vessels and human rights abuse type situation.”
The Government announced that foreign flagged fishing vessels will no longer be legally allowed to operate in New Zealand waters after a four-year transition period on Tuesday afternoon.
Boats will have to be reflagged with New Zealand flags requiring them to meet New Zealand standards and requirements.
It follows a ministerial inquiry that found some workers on foreign fishing vessels are being mistreated and under paid.
Legislation will be introduced to amend the Fisheries Act by the end of the year.
The changes will affect the 12 out of 27 New Zealand fishing companies using foreign chartered ships.
Craig says he is concerned that conditions and abuse will be on-going during the transition period.
“There is a whole spectrum of abuse aboard the vessels from non-payment of wages or very little payment to serious acts of violence and abuse.
“We considered that many of the vessels were running akin to modern slavery type operations.
“We were getting continual complaints and acting for a number of crew on vessels and we had a gut’s full of the abuse.
Craig says conditions on board the vessels are appalling.
“The short-term for us is to focus on a raft of different issues that these guys face.
“Ultimately I guess the working out of the law will result in a completely different scheme where they will get paid and the abuse they have suffered for many years, one would hope, will stop.”
When asked how the new law will be regulated, Craig said that was a good question.
“Part of the difficulty we’ve faced is the complete lack of ability of New Zealand authorities to enforce already existing law.
“There were some jurisdictional questions - there was a lot of confusion by the various government departments that interact in this area in terms of what powers they had and how they could intervene.
“I would hope that there would be much more clarity in terms of who has responsibility and certainly the Department of Labour, Immigration and Police would need to be very clear on what they can do given New Zealand’s international reputation is on the line.”
He says New Zealand should be proud of the announcement.
“We actually step up to the mark and the government decides to do something about it.
“It’s definitely an incredibly positive move for New Zealand to make sure we have a clean supply chain and that has been an area of great concern for groups like SlaveFreeSeas.
“We’re certainly tidying up our act.”