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End Procrastination of Reforms

Time to end the Procrastination over Recreational Fisheries Reform

by Tony Orman


Fishing News April 2002

It is time for an end to the Ministry of Fisheries' procrastination over safeguarding the right of New Zealanders to go fishing for recreational and food. Procrastination was evident in the consultation which the Ministry of Fisheries and its working party carried out following the release of the Soundings document. Now the Cabinet Finance, Infrastructure and Environment Committee have proposed that further consultation be carried out and reported back no later than February 2003. Think about the month February 2003 and relate it to another earlier month November 2002-just several months away. In November an election will be held. Call me cynical but some 30-plus years of appearing before a number of Parliamentary Select Committees and dealing, either directly or through the media, with successive ministers from W.J. Scott, Duncan McIntyre to Jim Bolger to Colin Moyle, Doug Kidd, John Luxton and now Pete Hodgson, makes one aware of tactic, such as smokescreens and stalling that can be used. In this case, I am very suspicious that this is the Big Stall!

Stall things until after the election! We don't want this recreational fishing issue to become a focus for voters at the election in November! Those may well be mutterings behind bureaucratic doors.

Lets go back to the Joint Working Group (the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council and Ministry of Fisheries) who conducted meetings to consult, summarised the submissions and reported to the Minister with their findings of the public consultation. In Marlborough a meeting was held, poorly advertised and some 60 turned up. At the meeting, members of the working group seemed to stall things by long-winded explanations, perhaps designed to take the sting out of those gathered.

Eventually questions were called for by the chair. A motion, moved by me and seconded from the floor, noted the poor publicity by the Ministry and called for other regional meetings. However the chairman ruled the "meeting" was not taking any motions and refused to put the motion, saying it was not a "meeting". Now this double-speak confused all. What constitutes a meeting? An advertised public gathering? A collection of attendees? If it wasn't a meeting what was it? I believe it was a token gesture at consultation and nothing more. It seems the working party was not interested in any expression of opinion from the meeting-oops sorry gathering.
option4 saw the same failing. "The Ministry completely failed to consult properly with the public - on (at least) two occasions notification of the meeting appeared in print as the meetings were occurring. (South Auckland, West Auckland)."

Now the cabinet committee has come up with gobbledygook designed to justify the stalling until after the election. It recommends "further development of policy to better define the public share of and access to fisheries, and to improve the management of recreational fishing." Then there's the classic sop, "that further policy development does not include any form of licensing of marine recreational fishers."

I believe licensing was a smokescreen in the first place. The real drive by the ministry bureaucrats was to get the public's recreational sea fishing catch sucked into the tradable quota system, something the big corporate players in the commercial industry would dearly love to happen. Then we, the public, would be at the mercy of the wheeling and dealing and aggregation of quota by the big corporate players. The cabinet committee further recommends "that any future public policy debate would benefit from a broad scale education and information programme on NZ fisheries management". Excuse my cynicism again, but isn't there another name for it -
brainwashing? And the word "management"! What of over 40 years of boom and busted fisheries from crayfish, oysters, snapper, trevally, billfish, kahawai, snapper and let's not forget the latest the orange roughy collapse in 2001!

A few other choice bits from the cabinet committee - "The Minister recommends a further period of consultation with a view to developing a specific proposal for reform. It is proposed the Minister report to FIN no later than 1 February 2003 on the outcome of further analysis and a recommended option for public consultation. The outcome of that next round of public consultation would be reported to FIN no later than 1 June 2003." Again this is political procrastination. Former Minister Colin Moyle spelt it out in the late 1980s when he accorded recreational fishing rights had priority. The "The Moyle Promise" was "preference will be given to non-commercial fishing where a species is not sufficiently abundant to support both non-commercial and commercial fishing." The government should implement that before November.

Why waste taxpayer's money on more token consultation? Frankly I don't have any confidence in the ministry whose track record is shocking and littered with the debris of mismanaged public fisheries and who are as cunning as the proverbial ethnic dog.
Well thank goodness option4 is on the ball. The above views are my own but I suspect to those who've been around for a while, would probably get mostly nods of agreement.

Here are some comments from option4 on the cabinet committee advice.
"This advice to Cabinet fails to adequately communicate the level of scepticism the public has about the effectiveness of the Quota Management System and fisheries management in general in New Zealand. Whilst the public are bombarded at every opportunity by Ministry and Industry awarding praise and accolades on the Quota Management System, the public are regularly on the loosing end of the stick with countless examples of failure of the system to adequately constrain effort or rebuild stocks appropriately." The Minister is advised that the public have not enjoyed fishing as good as what it is now since the 1970. "Tell that to those who fish for snapper in the Marlborough Sounds, flounder and mullet in the Kaipara, gurnard in the Hauraki Gulf, those who aspire to catching a Broadbill or tuna, the crayfish divers in CRA2, the Paua fishermen of Marlborough and others," says option4.

The impact of commercial fishing on New Zealand fish stocks and the quality of recreational fishing has been totally omitted in the cabinet paper. Reading the summary the impression is given that the greatest threat to the quality of recreational fishing IS recreational fishers and environmental factors.

There is sly word usage in the cabinet paper. The use of the term share (recreational share) is used seven times in the Cabinet paper but the term is misleading. "The situation in law is that the Minister shall allow for Maori customary non-commercial fishing interests and recreational interests. The Minister must make a deliberate allocation for the recreational sector - not provide them a share which may simply vary with the total allowable catch," says option4. The distinction is important since the Ministry believes the recreational catch should be defined as a proportional share of the total catch so as to minimize the impact on the commercial fishery. option4 has continually stated their opposition to the proportional share approach recommended by the Ministry. option4 clearly sees the whole exercise as a political one. "While it may be the nature of politics that the Ministry doesn't say what it means, to us in the public it is perceived as plain dishonest to leave out all reference to the proposed cap. If a key issue in this debate is a cap on recreational take it needs to be clearly stated in this document and not hidden from Cabinet. If it is not the intent of the recreational share to have a cap then state that instead."

During the consultation process option4 were so concerned by the white wash of the process that they organised several other Auckland meetings. Various members of option4 went from Dargaville to Gisborne to the South Island to ensure that the public's rights were not swept over, as has happened previously. A total of 62,117 submissions were received. The overwhelming majority of all submissions received were from recreational fishers (99%) but there were notably a number of commercial fishermen who told option4 they supported the lobby's principles.

Space doesn't allow all detail but as they say "watch this space" for more before November and Election Day! Let the editor know of your views of what I've written, bouquets or brickbats!


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