Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Organic is now a brand first and foremost.

By Ana Samways

A reader writes: "A million thanks to the eagle-eyed cat lovers who managed to attract the attention of my father-in-law, who was stationary at a red light on K Rd on Saturday night, to ask him if he was aware he had a cat clinging to the roof of his car! Our adored but reckless burmese, Harry, had somehow managed to hang on there for the 5km journey from our house in Westmere. Thankfully he didn't make it to the motorway."

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The Coaster, a community newspaper serving the Hibiscus Coast, informs readers the new public toilets next to the Orewa library are already being appreciated. The toilets are graced by two murals by artist Joy Bell, who says she likes the way her works fit in with the library: "They make the toilets more palatable ... I can see why the toilets are needed - they are so well used."

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Convicted fraudsters Donna Awatere Huata and her husband, Wi, want more legal aid, on top of the $160,000 to date, to pay for their appeals. Kiwiblog's David Farrar suggests they raise the money by "setting up a trust allegedly to help children learn to read and write, get lots of money from the Government for that purpose, and then just steal the money they need". (

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Warning: Not for the squeamish.

The scientific name for using one's finger to extract dried mucus is rhinotillexis, and doing so compulsively is termed rhinotillexomania. There is an Austrian doctor who has gained notoriety by advocating the picking of one's nose and the consumption of the resulting bounty, particularly in children. Dr Friedrich Bischinger, an Innsbruck lung specialist, believes that exposing the body to the dried germ remains helps to reinforce the immune system. He feels that society should adopt a new approach to nose-picking, and encourage children to take it up.

Editorial: WTO deal confounds the critics

Some people went to Hong Kong last week hoping to dance on the grave of the World Trade Organisation. They were determined to treat the expected failure of the sixth ministerial conference as the death not just of the Doha Round of multilateral negotiations but of the WTO itself. They made the mistake of leaving at the conference's scheduled end.

By the time the antagonists were on the way home to report the WTO's demise, weary trade ministers, still in Hong Kong, were meeting one more time to try to reach a deal. And they did. Late on Sunday the breakthrough came when the European Union agreed to end agricultural export subsidies by 2013.

That, of course, is just one issue among many on the Doha agenda, but it had become by this point in the round the sticking point. Food trade is the most contentious arena of negotiations and all sides except the EU had conceded something along the way to Hong Kong. The Europeans would give nothing away until well into the sixth and last day of the conference.

To maintain their intransigence they resorted to some truly desperate arguments, such as accusing the New Zealand dairy co-operative Fonterra of trading as a state enterprise, mainly on the ground that it handles this country's EU quota. To blame other countries for contrivances that exist only because the EU imposes import quotas was a bit rich. In the end it was remarkable that the EU not only relented on export subsidies in principle but agreed to an expiry day. It is the later of two dates that were on the table but it is a date nevertheless. The end of subsidised European exports should lift prices in other markets and boost returns for efficient farmers everywhere. New Zealand can begin to calculate some likely gains, though of course the round is far from concluded.

The Hong Kong ministerial conference agreed to an outline, or "framework", of a deal and set deadlines for final agreement. That might not sound like very much but it was more than seemed likely at the start. Summing up, the WTO director-general, Pascal Lamy, said, "We now have enough fuel in the tank to cruise at the right negotiating altitude next year". The next task is to agree on enough detail by March so that the round, already four years old, might produce a comprehensive agreement this time next year, a deadline imposed by the expiry of negotiating rights delegated by the United States Congress to President Bush.

The prospects are now better than they seemed before Hong Kong that this is indeed a "development round". The poorest countries among the WTO's 149 members are to receive duty-free access to developed markets, unrestricted by quota, for nearly 97 per cent of their exports. Cotton producers will be relieved of subsidised competition from rich countries as early as next year. These are concrete concessions that give the lie to statements from relief agencies and others who wrote off Hong Kong as "a betrayal of development promises by rich countries whose interests have prevailed yet again".

Why are some groups so anxious to see the WTO fail? Some, of course, are protected groups like the Korean rice farmers so prominent in street protests, and academics and teachers in this country who fear an agreement covering services will force state education to face more private competition. In fact Hong Kong produced quite a soft resolution on services: "Market opening will not be mandatory", especially for less developed countries.

It is a daunting task to produce unanimous agreement from so many countries on so many different items of trade. Little wonder it so often goes to the brink of collapse before common purpose is found. It happened at Hong Kong and it will happen again before the round is done. But success looks more likely now.

Jane Kelsey: Poor and outsiders find new friends

Most Kiwis have two largely unconnected images of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting: a dry interview with Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton, insisting that our future depends on the success of the Doha round of trade liberalisation, and sensational pictures of protests and riot police.

This snapshot masks the highly dysfunctional state of the WTO and the growing collaboration between governments of poorer countries and non-government organisations (NGOs) and social movements.

The crisis facing the institution was obvious to anyone at last week's sixth ministerial conference in Hong Kong. Throughout the five days the WTO was on life support. Even veteran journalists who champion free trade were writing its obituary.

In the preceding weeks, expectations had been "recalibrated" to avoid the appearance of another failure. The final text fell short even of that.

The few decisions that were taken reflected a trade-off among the inner circle or "new quad" comprising the United States, European Union, India and Brazil. These were agreed in the secret invitation-only "green room" and presented to the majority of members in the closing hours as a fait accompli.

The outcome mocked claims of a Doha "development" round, offering vague promises, deceptive "concessions" and missable deadlines. Many of the world's poorest countries were coerced into accepting a text that they had vigorously resisted.

Throughout the week, those relegated to the outer circle relied on the accredited NGOs and social movements as allies.

International networks such as Our World is Not for Sale had the capacity to collect, analyse and share intelligence, critique national positions, debunk claims and produce sign-on statements within hours.

Stunts and protest activities were staged in front of delegates and media. Many delegations privately expressed their appreciation; some joined the action; others sought meetings to develop complementary strategies.

This development reflects three important changes since the first WTO ministerial conference was held in Singapore in 1996.

Then, the decisions were framed by the "old quad" of the US, EU, Japan and Canada, determined in the "green room" and communicated to the rest. India was their main antagonist.

Few other developing countries understood the complex array of agreements that emerged from the Uruguay round. It is not surprising that the WTO's richer members, including New Zealand, believed they could continue shaping the rules through successive rounds of negotiations.

A decade later, extensive empirical research by NGOs, think tanks and critical academics have exposed the WTO's failure to deliver the promised gains for most poorer countries.

Even the World Bank's latest research concedes that predictions of substantial poverty reduction from the Doha round were based on a "fanciful scenario". It suggests that even big cuts in tariffs and subsidies would benefit fewer than 1 per cent of the world's people living below the poverty line. Hong Kong fell well short of that.

Second, global economic and political power has shifted. This is reflected in the pivotal role that "developing" countries Brazil and India, as leaders in the Group of 20 agriculture exporters, played in the collapse of the Cancun ministerial conference in 2003. In return they secured a seat at the inner table.

There was never any guarantee that these large, export-focused developing countries would champion the interests of poorer developing countries, as this week has proved. Hence, the alliances with the NGOs.

Third, the WTO's agreements on agriculture, industrial production, natural resources, services, intellectual property, government procurement and investment intrude deep into the policy choices of its 149 members. Existing and proposed rules require governments to reshape their policies and laws to fit the global market model.

In many countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia these neoliberal policies are intensely unpopular. They can be literally a matter of life and death. Governments rise, fall and are sometimes overthrown by mobilisations of people's movements.

Leftist delegations in Hong Kong made those connections. Venezuela, for example, traced its opposition to proposals on services to the role that US corporations who controlled the country's energy services played in fomenting popular unrest.

This factor links the protests outside to the negotiations inside. The 4500 peasant farmers from La Via Campesina who came to Hong Kong were on the streets and inside the meeting, where European and American farmers sought to influence the negotiations.

Addressing a press conference after the December 17 protests, French farmer Jose Bove insisted that militant dissent was a legitimate option when decisions over people's livelihoods are relocated from national democratic processes to a remote international organisation that is undemocratic and excludes any role for citizens.

"We are not terrorists, not criminals, we are farmers and workers who are fighting for our rights. That's why we came here to this building, to open the doors and say to the delegates, 'Come and listen to what we have to tell you, what the farmers are saying, what the workers are saying, about food sovereignty, about dumping'."

The relationship between the governments of poorer countries and a spectrum of non-government organisations and social movements which operate both within and outside the WTO is not without its tensions.

But it may prove to be the most significant outcome from the Hong Kong ministerial. As the Doha negotiations move back to Geneva, this relationship will play an increasingly pivotal role in deciding the future of the WTO.

* Dr Jane Kelsey was an accredited NGO representative to the Hong Kong ministerial meeting and as part of ARENA is active in the Our World is Not for Sale network.

Brian Rudman: School's prayer part of long tradition of ignoring the law

There's a certain irony about a row breaking out over the Lord's Prayer being recited at a state school assembly just a few days before we all stop work for a week or more to mark the said Lord's son's birthday.

All I can say on behalf of the heathens flocking to the beach is that we've been celebrating at this time of the year for much longer than the Christians. It's they who hijacked our holiday, not the other way round.

As for the nonsense that's broken out at Victoria Ave School in Remuera, I just can't believe that the school's board of trustees has spent the last two years fighting the indefensible.

Board of trustees chairwoman Sarah Fyfe says: "We are not religious zealots. We are not promoting any sort of religion. It is about the tradition and history of our school."

This is after local parents Dr Daniel Wu and Dr Nicki Butt were "surprised and annoyed" that their 5-year-old was made to stand and recite the Lord's Prayer at an assembly to which parents were invited.

That was two years ago and since then Dr Butt has been objecting, to no avail, first to the school, then the Ministry of Education, then through the long-winded mediation processes of the Human Rights Commission.

Now she's applied for a hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal.

Mrs Fyfe says the school has "bent over backwards to accommodate the issues" by offering to take the child out of assembly for the duration of the prayer. They can do that by a loophole in the 1964 Education Act which allows schools to "close" for a limited time each week for the "purpose of religious instruction" and so circumvent the secular nature of state education introduced in 1877.

Dr Butt objects to this sleight of hand, saying she doesn't want her child marginalised at the age of 7, and rightly so.

It's identical to the fiasco at North Shore City Council over the opening prayer at council meetings where the majority of token Christians voted that the objector - who as I recall was a Christian anyway - should cool his heels in the anteroom until the mumbo jumbo was over and then he could come in for the council meeting proper.

Mrs Fyfe's justification is that a parental survey showed that 91 per cent supported the prayer being kept during assembly. So what is she saying? That's it's all right for the other 9 per cent to stand out in the rain, or linger in the corridor until the Christian business is done?

But I forgot, it's not about religion at all is it, it's all about "tradition". A tradition going back all of 52 years. Well what about the tradition written into our law and going back 128 years that state education be secular?

True, from personal experience, that tradition has long been breached. I can recall assemblies in my school days at far less snobby schools than Victoria Ave Primary where we not only stumbled through the Lord's Prayer, but also sang hymns. I vaguely recall a couple of Jewish kids staying outside, but in my savage state, was not really aware what was going on.

At Mt Roskill Intermediate my class was even bussed off to a Moral Rearmament theatrical event in what later became the Mercury Theatre. I do remember the exotic Africans in their flowing gowns and the excitement of skipping school for a few hours, but I fear any religious message passed us by. As far as I'm aware anyway.

But those were distant monocultural times, part of our history and tradition best chuckled over at school reunions and then forgotten.

As the Anglican Dean of Auckland, Richard Randerson, wrote in this paper a year ago after returning from an inter-faith dialogue in Indonesia, "50 years ago [which was when Victoria Ave School began] Auckland was a predominantly Pakeha and Christian city. To see faith exclusively through the eyes of Western Christianity seemed natural. But that has changed."

He notes how various waves of migration have brought new languages and faiths to our shores. He pointed out that at the 2001 census, ONLY (my word) 60 per cent of New Zealanders affirmed a religious belief. He spoke of the need to inform and educate people on religious and cultural diversity. Victoria Ave would be a good place for him to start that process.

Fran O'Sullivan: Have we got moos for EU

Global food giants like Nestle, Cargill and Kraft get an easy ride from the World Trade Organisation, which is more prepared to put the activities of dairy co-operative Fonterra under the microscope than corporate power.

That's the bottom-line when you strip away all the well-meaning, national-oriented terminology: The WTO is basically a playing field which competing commercial interests will attempt to tilt in their favour.

After six days of round-the-clock negotiations in Hong Kong, the focus of the European Union - which is home to many major companies that dwarf New Zealand's so-called dairy giant - was still on attacking state-trading enterprise (STE) privileges, not the privileges of the many transnational giants that have been spawned since the EU was formed.

The problem of Fonterra is its success. It has significantly increased its share of the global dairy trade since the 2001 merger that brought together the Dairy Group, Kiwi Co-op and the Dairy Board to create a more efficient and market-oriented organisation big enough to take on global heavyweights.

WTO boss Pascal Lamy, who formerly represented the European Union in WTO negotiations, mounted a spirited attack against Fonterra when I interviewed him at his then Brussels headquarters two years ago. He's clearly an honest broker.

But he also has to ensure the EU "gets paid" in return for giving up its export subsidies.

The draft ministerial declaration agreed late on Sunday in Hong Kong is reasonably specific.

As a means of ensuring that trade-distorting practices of STEs are eliminated, disciplines relating to exporting STEs are intended to stop them using monopoly powers to circumvent rules on export subsidies, Government financing and the underwriting of losses.

The battle is on.

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton stoutly defended Fonterra in repeatedly arguing that a farmer co-operative was not a state-trading enterprise, nor was it supported by Government subsidies.

There are plenty of people who claim Fonterra is a state-trading enterprise that channels taxpayer funds towards the kiwi dairy farmer in a circuitous manner.

His counter-argument is that dairy farmers are proud they are not subsidised.

Unfortunately for Fonterra and the Government, the issue is not as obvious as the dairy sector would make out.

The EU argues that New Zealand, Canada and Australia have helped their state-trading enterprises secure a dominant share of the global market for these countries (up to 30 per cent share in global exports), which allows them to distort international trade markets.

The EU maintains these STEs can be private enterprises, albeit with artificial protection from market forces, saying they benefit from a wide range of Government-backed privileges, the most important of which are monopoly powers such as exclusive export rights.

Such governmental privileges not only confer huge financial benefits but also distort global agricultural trade.

On the surface, the claim is an absurdity.

Fonterra is a private co-operative, not a Government-trading enterprise.

But under WTO rules, the distinction is not so clear cut.

A report by Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates - acting for Canadian dairy interests - is still cited even though debunked by Fonterra.

It argues that through Fonterra, New Zealand provides export subsidies to support the sale of its dairy products, saying Fonterra was established as a de facto export monopoly because it was an export-oriented company and was intended to continue as an export-oriented company.

To ensure that Fonterra would have the greatest ability to sell on to the export market, the New Zealand Government granted it exclusive access to (restricted) higher value markets for dairy products through Government export licences. To ensure that Fonterra could be established, the merger was exempted from the requirement for Commerce Commission review, which would have considered the competition aspects of the merger and which would have almost certainly rejected the proposal.

Fonterra's constitution requires that all dairy producers supplying Fonterra must be shareholders in the corporation and must supply all of their production to Fonterra for sale. As a result, Fonterra has effectively captured virtually all local dairy production. This action has been supported and condoned by the Government.

The combination of controlling virtually all dairy production and holding the exclusive right to access high-value markets, and continued support from the Government, has allowed Fonterra to cross-subsidise exports of dairy products.

Using the revenues generated in the high-value markets, Fonterra can sell into other more competitive export markets at lower prices. The lower prices offered by Fonterra are made possible by profits that it realises from its sales into the more remunerative protected markets.

As a result, the lower prices that it offers into the other markets are made possible through export subsidies.

That rationale is not attractive - but it still survives - and is the one that Fonterra (and New Zealand) must debunk in the next four months if the dairy co-operative is not to face constraints on its activities.

Sutton, performing his swansong as trade minister in Hong Kong, was like a pig in shit, said a private sector member of his team. With his departure date from the portfolio still not confirmed before he left for Hong Kong, Sutton was widely quoted in international newspapers, illustrating the reservoir of credibility he has built in international trade circles after six years in the job.

His namecard has become a collector's item. It's the same one he had before Prime Minister Helen Clark asked him not to stand for re-election to Cabinet.

But he had crossed out by hand all his previous portfolios (Agriculture, Biosecurity, Associate Minister for Rural Affairs) to just leave Trade Negotiations, so there were no misunderstandings.

Sutton will leave big shoes to fill.

The private sector lobbyists who were accompanying him have no doubt that Phil Goff has the political smarts and analytic ability to pick up the role quickly.

But there are reservations about the amount of time they believe he will be able to make available to push the New Zealand case in the many mini-ministerial meetings that will take place overseas next year to try to bring the WTO round to a conclusion by December 2006.

This is short-sighted.

Sutton went out of his way to blood Goff by taking him on at least one occasion into the critical green room talks where the WTO's heavyweight trade ministers thrashed out the bones of the draft declaration released on Sunday.

Goff should also be able to make a virtue out of the fact he is not a farmer, unlike Sutton, whose competitors argue he is talking his old book.

Not quite pat

* The EU argues New Zealand has helped its state trading enterprise secure a dominant share of the global market - thus distorting international trade.

* The EU says such an STE can be private enterprise albeit with artificial protection from market forces.

* Therefore, it benefits from a wide range of Government-backed privileges, the most important being monopoly powers such as exclusive export rights.

* Fran O'Sullivan attended the WTO round in Hong Kong.

Tapu Misa: No room for complacency when racism is assessed

Tapu Misa: No room for complacency when racism is assessed


There is a test you can take which measures your racial attitude at an unconscious level. It's called the Race IAT (Implicit Association Test), and, as Malcolm Gladwell writes in his best-selling book Blink, it measures "the immediate, automatic associations that tumble out before we've even had time to think". Or to kid ourselves.

A version of it is available on (see link below) and I'm recommending it to anyone who tends to start a sentence with: "I'm not racist but ... "

Gladwell says he's taken the test "on many occasions" and the results always leave him feeling "a bit creepy". Despite being half black - his mother is Jamaican - the test reveals that he has "a moderate automatic preference for whites".

He reports that of 50,000 African-Americans who had taken the test, about half have stronger associations with whites than blacks. "How could we not? We live in North America, where we are surrounded every day by cultural messages linking white with good."

My daughter, with her hyphenated New Zealand-Samoan-Tongan identity, took the test after reading Gladwell's book and was not surprised to find - considering her diverse range of friends and family - that she has no racial preferences, conscious or otherwise. Which might suggest that in Aotearoa we still have "the best race relations in the world", as a friend of mine remembers reading in a textbook at her school in Scotland 40 years ago. Or not.
In the aftermath of the Sydney riots, complete with neo-Nazis and the incitement of ranting talkback "shock jocks", there has been much talk here at pre-Christmas gatherings about how racist our own society might be and whether we're any better than our excitable neighbours.

My sister and one of our friends, a genial Pacific Islander, who encountered prejudice just about everywhere they went on a trip to Sydney, would say: "Yes, without a doubt." And I'd be inclined to agree.

But you don't have to scratch the surface too hard to find signs of the same ugly underbelly. Witness the approving "good on yer" postings on the blogosphere, and those "If Sydney can do it so can we, let's take back our land" posters which appeared in Wellington last week. But how big a racism problem we might have here depends entirely on who you ask - racism being no problem at all for those who've never experienced it.

For example, most participants in a research report published by the Asia New Zealand Foundation in July said they'd experienced some form of racism, the most common being verbal abuse and "the finger", often from teenagers or children.

As well as overt racism - having bottles or stones thrown at them, and being laughed at because of poor pronunciation - Asians reported more subtle racism, especially in employment, with employers giving jobs and promotions to Kiwis ahead of them, even if they were better workers.

But the man whose job it is to keep a watching brief on these things, Race Relations Conciliator Joris de Bres, says that despite the eight cases of race-related crimes successfully prosecuted by the police this year - the largest number in recent years - he doesn't think we're seeing a deterioration in our race relations.

"Several of them have a common origin in people associated with the tiny National Front organisation, who certainly do not represent the views of the vast majority of New Zealanders."

Or, it would seem, the views of the tiny National Front, which is keen to reject that whole fascist white supremacist tag.

When two former National Front members were convicted earlier this month of the vandalism of Muslim worship centres in Auckland, the National Front leader Sid Wilson was at pains to point out that he didn't like haters in his organisation, that he found the term "sand niggers", used by one of the offenders, offensive, and that he had in fact expelled one of the men because of his extreme views. (Ironically, the expelled man's lawyer was Samoan.)

But even if our version of the National Front seems tame compared with its more vicious overseas counterparts, we shouldn't get smug.

There's only ever been one surefire way of overcoming racist attitudes and that's to get to know each other well enough to become immune to the negative cultural messages we're bombarded with. That requires more than a little interaction.

But how we go about that is becoming more problematic. As rising house prices and other economic realities bite, and our suburbs and schools become more segregated, the opportunities for rubbing along together are becoming fewer.

At a netball game earlier this year, the Pakeha dad who was in charge of our mostly brown team was shocked at the racist attitude of some of the parents of the opposing team.

They were all white, from a decile 10 school in the eastern suburbs. Our team was mostly brown, a mixture of Pacific Island, Maori and Pakeha. It was clear that some of the parents, and their daughters, had come with an attitude. They'd decided that our girls were beneath them before they'd even clapped eyes on them.

By the end of the game they had intimidated our team's umpire, an unassertive student who had volunteered to help, told a cheering parent to shut up, and racially abused our young umpire. When challenged by our outraged Pakeha dad, one of the abusers accused him of being one of those PC bleeding heart liberals.

Which, of course, was so much worse than being a racist pig.

Tony Watkins: Messing about with dreams

The first boat for many New Zealanders was one they built themselves. With a zero budget, it was probably rather modest. Perhaps a sheet of corrugated iron bent in half with the ends folded over.

Almost certainly it sank, but as you walked home through the mud and the mangroves, with a little experience gained, there was time to dream of better things.

Not everyone persisted, but some of those who did continued until their ambitions were no longer modest.

Sandy and Joan Mills wanted to sail the canals of France. They designed and built a a retractable-keel boat suitable for the canals, but to get there meant first sailing around the world.

The boat they built in their backyard in their spare time was to take them to a mooring in Paris in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and they were to sail back through the Pacific to complete a circumnavigation of the globe.

While they were on their four-year journey my humble owner-built yacht provided an excellent roost for terns and cormorants.

She looked something of a wreck with a solid layer of guano when I put her on the hard at our yacht club for a clean.

It was all rather embarrassing as she was surrounded by polished fibreglass hulls brought out to race before being carefully stored away from the sun.

A little boy wandered by to muse about the grubby stranger. "Gee, mister," he said, "have you sailed around the world?"

In my dreams I had.

The Commodore of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club understands all this. He wants Okahu Bay to be a community facility, one where oldtimers spend months working on their boats.

One reason it takes time is because they always stop to talk to the youngsters who want to know how to build their first boat, or what it is like to sail around the world. The hard is a mixture of boats, cars, paint tins and coffee mugs. A place where people still smile and everyone loves a yarn.

In another culture and another time this would have been the piazza, the heart of the city. Now our city has become an unfriendly place and so the heart has moved out to Okahu Bay.

The urban designers and city bureaucrats understand none of this. Their cities of polished granite and pretentious cosmetic architecture are built to be displayed in world-class magazines where you will look in vain for any sign of real people, or life.

Westhaven is for the millionaires who expect their sailing skippers to have their boats polished and the refrigerator stocked ready to entertain visitors.

Okahu Bay is for the old salts who build and repair their own boats.

Westhaven is for those who have it all but do not sleep well at night. Okahu Bay is for those who have no money, cannot quite work out how to get started, but do know how to dream.

But diversity, like sustainability, does not make economic sense and Auckland City Council has decided it is more efficient to put the managers who run a tight ship at Westhaven in control of Okahu Bay as well.

The fences are going up and the rules are coming in. Soon you will pay for parking and all the messy boats and messy people will be gone.

The laughter will die. The stories will be forgotten. The next generation of children will have nowhere to go for ideas about how to build a boat for themselves.

It will have cost Auckland's ratepayers $38 million to destroy another wonderful asset.

Kiwis have never assumed it was impossible to build yourself a house or to sail around the world. We have done it for generations. If Okahu Bay dies, we will forget who we are.

Great cities nurture those who dream of what might be. Great cities treasure those places where people learn about life and how to do things for themselves.

* Tony Watkins was co-author of the Waitemata Harbour Maritime Plan.