By Dr James Findlay, CEO AFMA.
As Commonwealth fishers understand very well, AFMA undertakes cost recovery for expenses incurred as a direct result of management of commercial fishing. While demands on both industry and AFMA continue to rise, AFMA made a commitment to industry to keep a lid on costs. This included keeping the total recovered costs between 2007 and 2009 below the 2005-06 level and then keeping costs from 2010 onwards at the 2009-10 level indexed for the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
So how have we gone? While there have been some significant increases for some individual fisheries, the overall result is pretty good. The cost recovery in 2012-13 is only 2% higher than the 2005-06 level in total and when adjusted for CPI this represents a decrease of more than 14% in real terms or nearly $10M more in fisher’s pockets. Even since 2009-10 when AFMA allowed cost recovery to increase up to the level of CPI each year, increases have been somewhat less than inflation resulting in $2.7M less in levies being collected than if cost recovery had just increased at the rate of inflation. These results show that AFMA is serious about keeping costs down and actions such as 10% staff reduction, sub-leasing around 30% of AFMA’s Canberra office and rolling out GoFish, elogs and other, more efficient systems have allowed AFMA to keep costs down without impacting on the quality of AFMA service delivery.
There is still more to be done but future changes will require industry and AFMA to collectively make some decisions about the form and style of delivery of AFMA services going forward. Future savings options could include widespread use of e-monitoring, e-logs and/or outsourcing some or all of the observer program. Other options include industry rather than AFMA preparing submissions for Wildlife Trade and Strategic Assessments under environmental legislation. Greater use of individual cost recovery through Fee for Service and reducing the reliance on the collective levy system will also assist AFMA in making sure that cost recovery is as equitable as possible (i.e. those fishers who are receiving particular AFMA services are paying for them). AFMA will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, SETFIA and other parts of the industry to develop and implement new ways to improve the cost-effectiveness of AFMA services.