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Introduction to David Benson-Pope

option4 Writes To The New Minister

by the option4 Team

26th March 2004


Hon David Benson-Pope

Minister of Fisheries

Parliament Buildings


26 March 2004

Dear Minister

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister of Fisheries and Associate Minister for Environment and Justice. 

I am writing on behalf of non-commercial fishers and our NGO option4.co.nz. Our team has been working with the Ministry of Fisheries, NZ Recreational Fishing Council, NZ Big Game Fishing Council and the NZ Angling & Casting Association for four years on the clarification of amateur fishing rights. We also seek better representation of our views in the fisheries management process.

In 2000 the Ministry of Fisheries produced a public discussion document called Soundings. The document outlined three options for the future management of recreational fishing:

The status quo;

  • Proportional share;
  • Proportional share and recreational self-management. 

Our group presented a fourth option, hence our name. Our option was supported by 98.5% of the public who submitted to the process - 61,178 individuals. Since then we have made good progress in communication with the Ministry, on representation of non-commercial fishers and in unanimity among representative groups. However we turned down an option to support legislative change to section 21 of the Fisheries Act 1996 last year.

Broadly we are a group that is trying to maintain reasonable harvesting and access rights for non-commercial fishers in a marine environment that is increasingly coming under pressure from competing users. We want to see our inshore resources protected from pollution, siltation, invasive species and overfishing. We also seek a coordinated, integrated approach to marine protection issues.

Our website www.option4.co.nz is our most efficient way of communicating with our support base and the public. We use it as a resource and record of process. option4 is determined to see good process and adequate consultation when dealing with the public. We trust you will be willing to work with option4 to achieve the best possible outcome for the public of New Zealand.

As can be seen for the recent debate on the foreshore and seabed, the sea has been thought of as a commons and private ownership is being resisted. You should be aware we have misgivings about some aspects of current policy. A major concern is that the power of certain commercial fishing methods has established catch rights beyond what can be sustained and, if allowed to continue, is likely to reduce fish stocks to an unacceptable degree. Needless to say, that would seriously disadvantage the non-commercial fisher.

While we acknowledge the Quota Management System (QMS) has gone a long way toward producing a sustainable commercial harvest we suspect the Ministry is still set on inflicting a regime of tradable property rights on the non-commercial sector. We strongly oppose that idea and believe we speak for the public who we represent.

If future changes in allocation are required to redress the imbalance of the past, it will probably be the taxpayer that ends up compensating the fishing industry, yet again. We trust you will be giving serious consideration to the upcoming decisions regarding new species entering the QMS, kahawai in particular.

We ruefully accept that the non-commercial sector will always struggle to get a fair deal against a $1.5 billion industry. But we are well equipped to fight and, where necessary, we will. It is our view that the resource should be managed in the best interests of the public: short-term commercial gains should never have priority over long-term conservation and growth. The aspirations and day-to-day concerns of those of us who fish for food and pleasure should not be subjugated to commercial greed.

We look forward to working with you and your Ministry to ensure the best value for all New Zealanders is achieved through the sustainable use and harvest of our marine resources. 

Yours faithfully


Paul Barnes

Project Leader

On behalf of the option4 team



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