• Report

Creating value from a blue economy: Final report

Lewis N, Le Heron R, Hikuroa D, Le Heron E, Davies K, FitzHerbert S, James G, Wynd D, McLellan G, Dowell A, Petersen I, Barrett J, Sharp E, Ribeiro B, Catley S, Baldoni M and Le Heron K. (2020).

This report presents the findings of the Creating value from a blue economy project, which developed the ideas of blue economy, extended the understanding of marine economy in Aotearoa New Zealand, and disrupted the established view of economy.

Download/view report

Executive summary 

This project took up the National Science Challenge mandate to disrupt business as usual. It scoped out what it would take to transition to a truly blue economy that will put New Zealand at the forefront of global change.

The information gathered, observations made, and insights drawn demonstrate that:

  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine economies are more complicated than is recognised through standard measurement approaches
  • Aotearoa New Zealand enterprises have begun to embrace new aspirations and commitments, adopt new (green) technologies, and develop new sectors
  • Key barriers to enhancing resource use are resource management and knowledge-based as much as they are a result of investment or market development constraints
  • Government agencies are committing to EBM approaches, but government and formal industry perspectives remain dominated by export-led growth strategies and targets that lock-in volume-based business models and limit commitments to other values
  • There are opportunities for creating new and different blue economy value(s), business models, production practices and ethical coordinates that dovetail with value-added strategies
  • Māori economy is leading the way towards a blue economy in the terms of Te Ao Māori, by demanding a fuller exposition of values and possibilities, asking who benefits and how, embracing collecting initiatives, and configuring values-means-ends pathways differently.

In short, the project demonstrates that Aotearoa New Zealand has the potential to generate a unique and world leading blue economy that generates national income gains through a focus on livelihoods, community values and ecosystem health. To succeed, these goals need to be understood as fundamental rather than as limits to growth. Success will secure sustainable seas for multiple generations to come.

To achieve this outcome will require altered practice and management from investment and entrepreneurialism to routine production and resource management practices, and to altered public values and consumer behaviour. It will also require altered management and governance regimes, which will need to be fully integrated into a fundamental rethinking of the economy, its potential and its purpose.

Aotearoa New Zealand will need to:

  • embrace a holistic understanding of economy that encompasses all activities and all actors involved in economic processes
  • adopt new ways of identifying and measuring economic activity that recognise enterprise level activities and connectivities and present objects of management that facilitate transitions and allow for sharper policy objectives
  • achieve successful and on-going technological transitions to more sustainable production practices across all sectors
  • refocus attention on adding value(s) in all economic activities and fields – from conception to resourcing to measuring returns
  • recalibrate with blue economy principles all circuits of economic activity from entrepreneurialism to investment, engagement with nature, production, distribution, consumption and regulation, including focusing attention on green finance, restorative economy, and provenance values
  • develop environmental and economic management frameworks that are:
    • (a) aligned around the recognition that in resource economies economic and environmental management are effectively the same process focused on different objects of management;
    • (b) adopt the principles of ecosystem based management as a platform
      for community and ecosystem health; and
    • (c) embed commitments to just transitions
  • recognise the virtues of the commons as a platform for delivering just transitions

These are radical means to achieve ambitious goals at a time when the world requires (and is demanding) a sea-change in marine economy. Aotearoa New Zealand is uniquely placed to lead the charge, has a responsibility to do so, and will be a winner if it succeeds. The triadic pressures of climate change, Covid-19 epidemic and geopolitical upheaval will change the world, New Zealand’s place in it, and our economic opportunity sets. The potential gains for the nation of doing blue economy well are beyond measure.

These findings pose hard questions which pivot around who should be allowed to shape and drive blue economy futures and for whom, and what it will take to ensure that they can. The research does not answer all the questions it poses, but it does identify strategies, frameworks, and processes that will.

The research frames the fundamental economic questions facing Aotearoa as political: access to aquaculture space for growth, science spending to support blue tech, commitments to distinctiveness and value-added products, and commitments to high value tourism and indigenising environmental management and economic activity. It identifies levers that promise to put transitions in motion.

The conceptualisation of economy developed in this report will be unfamiliar, but the emphasis it places on economy should reassure business interests and related stakeholders that economy remains central to questions of local and global futures.

Imagining the possibilities of a BE is not an abstract intellectual exercise; it is an economic imperative for a country increasingly dependent on marine and coastal resources for income and environmental safety. Transitioning to a blue economy is essential but will not happen by itself. And it needs to be brought about by a new alliance of interests and commitments to collective benefits, which will involve existing metrics of economic success but reframed within and accountable to wider ecological, cultural and social metrics.

Utilising marine resources is about more than growth per se and sustainable futures must be about more than growth within limits. The economy that delivers them must be understood as more than an external object of ‘management’ the boundaries of which are defined by outmoded measurement regimes. Rather economic success is a question of kaitiakitanga.

The report will argue that in the context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the significance of Māori economy in Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine economy, transitions to a blue economy might best be understood as indigenising marine economy. It concludes by identifying five spheres of action for operationalising just transitions to a blue economy – each of which recognises and seeks to strengthen the generative potential of the commons:

  • extending the oceanic conservation estate to allow for more creative and flexible spaces of allowable practices
  • developing an institutional framework that secures a place-oriented, practice-based, and opportunities-focused to managing economy-environment relations that delivers just transitions and EBM principles
  • centring concerns with indigenising blue economy as a unique opportunity and development model for achieving blue economy environmental, livelihood and social justice goals
  • adopting a national strategy for the blue economy and an Oceans Ministry to promote and secure transitions
  • targeted research to support these blue economy development directions.
  • Final report: Creating value from a blue economy

    11 MB | Adobe Acrobat PDF file