By Catherine Norwood
More than 15 years ago, the New Zealand Government outsourced a range of services from its Ministry of Fisheries to a newly created, industry-owned business, FishServe.
The move came out of a desire within industry to have a greater role in the services they pay for (NZ Fisheries are cost-recovered).
FishServe is a subsidiary of the industry body Seafood New Zealand. It processes licence applications, trading of catch entitlements and quota shares, catch data and provides support to industry – helping fishers understand reporting, licensing and other legal requirements. Increasingly, the services have moved from being paper-based to electronic.
After assessing the risks and benefits, government and industry were able to agree on a model to devolve services to industry, through FishServe, which came into effect in 2001.
Since then, FishServe has been able to reduce its operating costs from NZ$8 million a year to about NZ$4 million. Using the internet for business transactions and increasing the number of services delivered online has helped to cut internal operating costs.
Mark Jones is general manager of FINNZ, a subsidiary of FishServe that provides software and data-related services to support fisheries management organisations. He outlined the services that FishServe provided and gave an overview of how data was handled “New Zealand-style” at a recent workshop on data harmonisation held by the FRDC and at the national Seafood Directions 2017 conference in September.
“One of the things we got right when the services were separated from government was our desire to treat our fishers as ‘customers’ of the business,” he said. “When FishServe started, staff put in a lot of effort to work directly with fishers to identify what they needed and to help sort out any issues.
“If someone had a problem we would go and see them, and show them how the forms worked, and how to do things online.”
These early efforts and a customer service focus have improved the quality of data and efficiency of service delivery, and established FishServe as a trusted provider to government and industry.
“It is an interesting position to be in, as an industry-owned organisation, providing industry information required for regulatory compliance to government,” Mark Jones said. “To get the benefits of this type of devolved arrangement, it’s critical to set the service delivery organisation up in the right way and define how it will operate on a day-to-day basis, to eliminate any potential conflict of interest.
“We operate within a service and data governance framework that clearly articulates our roles and responsibilities. We don’t own the data; it is owned by individual fishers and government. Simply, our role is to deliver a number of services to industry and government and it’s very clear what we do with data and what we can’t,” he said.
Staff and organisational accountability are critical to the fundamental controls the organisation needs, along with comprehensive performance standards detailing how data is handled. That is essential to ensure the credibility of the organisation.
There is some data that FishServe does not manage, such as data recorded by fisheries observers. However, it is responsible for the operation of five public registries: quota shares; catch entitlement; fishing permits; vessel licences; and high-sea vessel licences. Under New Zealand fisheries law, these provide ‘one source of truth’ as to the licence details, level of catch entitlement and quota share holdings of individual fishers.