to end the Procrastination over Recreational Fisheries Reform
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
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
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!