The Government is launching a study of potential marine farming sites in Northland in a bid to restart the stalled aquaculture industry.
Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley says the 18-month long survey, led by the Environment Ministry, will identify suitable places for finfish and oyster farming.
He says Northland Regional Council approved 19 sites some time ago, but since the Aquaculture Reform Act of 2004, not a single new marine farm has gone ahead.
Mr Heatley says many companies and iwi groups are keen to expand marine farms and build new ones, but gaining resource consent has been costly and risky and no investor has applied in four years.
He says new legislation and RMA reforms will remove those barriers, and Northland's aquaculture management areas will be formalised by the middle of next year.
A Northland hapu says the Government's move could mean financial independence at last for many Maori.
Carmen Hetaraka, of Whangaruru, says his people tried to start a mussel farm in their harbour some years ago, but were thwarted by the cost and consent issues.
Mr Hetaraka says the move to expand the industry will be welcome, as long as small local Maori groups are not elbowed aside by big industry players.