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Mussel Industry Upheaval (2)

Readers will be as puzzled as I in regard to the story that broke of 5 September 2012 regarding the failure of NZ Mussel Processors Ltd following action by two of the shareholders - Sanfords and Sealord to put the Company into receivership. You will recall that Sanfords stated at the time that the action had been taken because of a $1.2m unpaid debt on the part of the third shareholder - Peter Vitasovich's NZ Greenshell Mussels Ltd.

A Google search indicates that there has not been a beep since that time from any of the parties concerned, and the future of Greenshell must surely be up in the air, but Peter V. has apparently gone to ground and has issued no statement, or made himself available for interview as far as I can ascertain.

But at yesterday's Council, it appeared business as usual with Ben Day reporting a meeting with the Coro. Mussel Farmers Assoc. at which he "indicated to them in no uncertain manner that Council involvement was dependent of them getting their act together, and presenting a united front". He further indicated that a committee had been appointed to deal with Council comprising Gilbert James, Peter Vitasovich and Tom Hollings that would be "able to speak for all interests". That is yet to be seen - it certainly does not equate with what Gilbert James told David Hammond during their meeting back in June, and as reported to the last Council meeting.

It appears to me that Ben Day is out of his depth, despite the effusive praise for his performance emanating from both the Mayor and Hammond. Either he does not keep himself informed, or what happened yesterday was a deliberate 'snow job' on the Council. How on earth can Vitasovitch be speaking for the other major players at Sugar Loaf - Sanfords and Sealord, when they are clearly at odds based on the undenied 5 September news reports. 

There was much huffing and puffing yesterday about how Council funds will not be committed to the project until there is a clear commitment by the farmers - through their Association? Who knows.

What we do know is the this Council has already made a huge investment in the aquaculture industry in the District and plans even greater investment in the future with apparent disregard of the current state of the mussel export market - it appears in disarray, with what are reportedly substantial stocks of unsold frozen product held over from the last season - shelf life indeterminate. Are we witnessing another case of a commercially naive Council entity getting sucked into funding an industry about which they are clue less, and which may be at a precipice. .

It is time for business's, particularly those that are owed money to stand up and bring some commercial reality to the table, before this bunch of boosters and amateurs get us embroiled beyond recovery in this industry - either shell, or finfish. 

At the moment they appear to be relying on the Government's ability to bulldoze through consent process's in order to to get one of their cornerstone industrys in place, and TCDC is along for the ride. It will certainly be intersing to read the finfish concesion tender documents when they become available to see just how they intend to slide around the environmental issues. International tender indeed - be afraid; be very afraid!




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