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NZ Fishing News - December Editorial by Grant Dixon

Welcome to the December issue.

The month has been a busy one for the NZ fishing News team as the articles which follow reflect.

Those of us intimately involved with the Soundings process and the promotion of Option4 have felt the extra pressure attending a number of public meetings, fielding enquiries and upgrading web sites.

On that last note Scott MacIndoe has put a considerable amount of time and effort into a 'new look' Option4.co.nz website which promotes not only the option4 Group's philosophies but encourages the public to put down their thoughts for all to read.

I make no bones about my personal stance on the Soundings document and in doing so have rattled a few cages among the Ministry of Fisheries and the NZ Recreational Fishing Council. I stand by Candid Comment as MY opinion - you, the reader, have to make your own mind up as to what is right and wrong.

In this month's Letters column we have three correspondents who take umbrage with the way I have handled the Soundings campaign.

Max Hetherington and Warren Lewis have their say on last month's Candid Comment and I gladly make the space available to them as I do to Warwick Tuck, MoF's chief executive officer.

Mr Tuck makes a number of allegations to which I will enjoy a right of reply. He implies the magazine has not played a 'significant role' and we have not met the challenge of 'assisting with constructive development of public policy'.

I believe we have assisted greatly by encouraging discussion on the issue, being actively involved in campaigning against a document which, in my opinion, at its worst attempts to cheat us out of our heritage and at the very best makes the New Zealand public a minor shareholder in its own fishery.

He suggests we attempted to 'deface and denigrate' the Working Party's advertisement by placing an option4 submission form, which we asked readers to cut out, on the preceding page.

The option4 Group's advertisement was placed as near to the Sounding promotion as possible, as it was a related issue and for no other reason. Until Mr Tuck's letter arrived on my desk I had not even thought about this aspect. Coupons can be found in advertisements throughout any issue you choose to pick up.

The magazine is accused of 'failing to provide the public with a sufficient choice of opinion on such an important matter'. I have never discounted material for publication in the likes of the Letters forum on the grounds they oppose my personal views - it is just hard to find anyone in favour of the Sounding's options one, two or three as individual entities.

Columnist Bill Cooke comes under fire for one of his columns where he suggests the Ministry's policy people have not served the country and its fish stocks well. That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. It is clear to most people the Ministry's policies have been designed to suit fiscal ends rather than the public's interest, hence the columnist's habit of renaming Mr Tuck's policy people the 'Ministry of 'Commercial Fisheries'. Given the previous minister John Luxton's performance and lack of interest in the recreational (read public's) cause, perhaps it is an apt description.

Had NZ Fishing News and the Option4 Group not got off their butts and instituted public discussion with some well publicised alternatives for the three Soundings scenarios, the public's rights to its fishery might well have been watered down. There certainly would have been no push for a (public) priority right, as sought by the Option4 Group campaigners.

To Mr Tuck and his policy team, the vast majority of Kiwis, it appears, do not want a bar of any of the Sounding's options. They are voting with their feet - Option4 principles are being given the thumbs up.

The four principles in option4 encompass a number of the positive points raised by the various Soundings options. First amongst these is the need to establish a priority right for the New Zealand public in its own fishery.  Anything less is not good enough.

To do this may prove expensive for the Government, but if they can fork out $140 million-plus for arts and culture over its three year term, there has to be some spare cash to buy back fish that by rights belongs to all New Zealanders. Perhaps if Helen Clark had been an angler instead of an arts lover we might be in with a better chance?

NZ Fishing News and the Option4 Group do not have a hidden agenda. For that reason the Option4 representatives should be part of the submission revue process and any further recreational fishing rights deliberations. Given the huge amount of public support, anything less would be a travesty of justice.

That's all from me. I will get of my soap box and sharpen my hooks in anticipation of getting among some of the good snapper being caught around our waters, as well as attempting to put a couple of trout in the bin as the harling comes on around the Taupo and Rotorua lakes region.

See you out there....

Grant Dixon


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