Questions unanswered, stories untold: Reviewing the New Zealand Government’s response to Foreign Charter Vessel Allegations
The seafood industry is New Zealand's fifth largest export sector by value and a major contributor to the nation's economy. However, for decades a sizeable portion of annual total industry catch within the Exclusive Economic Zone has been caught by overseas flagged vessels (‘Foreign Charter Fishing Vessels’ or ‘FCVs’) crewed by foreign guestworkers on contract to New Zealand based fishing quota holders. Concerns relating to guestworker welfare, working conditions aboard vessels, and regulatory compliance have characterised their controversial presence in New Zealand waters. In July 2011 the New Zealand Ministers for Labour and Primary Industries jointly announced the establishment of a Ministerial Inquiry to consider the use and operation of FCVs in New Zealand’s waters following the emergence of reports of widespread exploitation of guestworkers aboard vessels. In August 2011 a high profile report by University of Auckland researchers detailed allegations raised by groups of FCV guestworkers who claimed they had been the victims of sustained physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at sea. The implication is that many guestworkers had been 'trafficked' into the industry to labour for little or no remuneration. The terms of reference for the Ministerial Inquiry directed the Inquiry Panel to review the use of FCVs against the Government’s articulated priorities for the industry. These priorities were to ‘protect New Zealand’s international reputation and trade access’; ‘maximise economic return to New Zealand from fisheries resources’; and to ‘ensure acceptable and equitable labour standards are applied on vessels operating in New Zealand’s fisheries waters’. This thesis applies critical discourse analysis methodology to analyse the establishment of the Ministerial Inquiry, the Inquiry’s public consultation process, and the public policy recommendations contained in its final report to Government in order to examine how the experiences and allegations of guestworkers were framed, ordered, and considered throughout the Inquiry process. The research findings suggest that the Inquiry process has marginalised guestworker perspectives and that this has implications for the pursuit of social justice. As such the thesis contributes to an emerging academic literature on the experiences of guestworkers in the New Zealand fishing industry and the ways in which allegations of exploitation and mistreatment have been viewed and responded to by the New Zealand authorities.