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Reference Group - 1st Meeting

29 January 2003

The Reference Group consists of individuals from option4, the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council (NZBGFC) and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council (NZRFC). This group was formed after a meeting with the Minister of Fisheries in December 2002. It was an attempt to progress the reform of recreational fishing. The process involved representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries and the recreational sector working through documents and trying to find a workable solution to resolve the outstanding issues for the recreational sector including the 4 principles.

Notes of issues discussed and decisions made.


Amateur fishers (AF):

Officials (O):

Paul Barnes
Stan Crothers
Scott Mcindoe
Mark Edwards
Bill Cooke
Peter Cole
Kim Walshe  
Ross Gildon  
Geoff Rowling  
Keith Ingram  
Richard Baker  

The meeting commenced at approximately 4.00pm at the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club.

Proposed agenda was discussed. Some AF thought it was important that the meeting focus on the development of a reform option. This would enable fishers to ascertain if the development of an option incorporating the 4 principles set out the 8 December letter to the Minister from NZRFC/option4/NZBGFC was possible. If the development of such an option wasn’t likely then fishers would have to consider if it was worthwhile proceeding with the reforms using the proposed process. Some AF expressed the view that it was best to start by identifying at what point and how the unrestricted right to fish by amateur fishers had become subservient to other statutory rights and obligations. O indicated that the occasional paper on the legal nature of the right to fish discussed this issue but agreed to provide a paper on this matter. An assessment of further threats to the right to fish was also required.

Additional agenda items were suggested. These were:

  • Consultation with Maori-when will this take place?
  • MCG process and papers. Amateur fishers made a number of submissions during this process to which the Ministry has yet to respond.
  • The SNA2 decision. Why weren’t the provisions of s308 used by the Crown to reallocate a reasonable allocation for non-commercial (amateur) fishers under the Act free from the possibility of compensation payments?
  • What the Minister wanted to achieve with the “Oceans Policy” and what impact this would have on the amateur fisher right to fish and its reform

Minister’s letter
The Minister’s letter of 21 January 2003 (responding to the 8 December letter) was seen by some as suggesting the Government had some proportional based reform option in mind. Fishers had previously rejected this approach. The letter identified a number of constraints [settlement with Maori, integrity of the QMS, other users of the resource, and compensation issues] limiting the scope of any reform option. This was seen by some fishers as suggesting the Crown would not be flexible in considering a full range of reform options. O stated that the letter set out a number of matters to be taken into account and considered alongside the principles set out in the 8 December letter when developing potentially workable options.

The constraint in relation to the settlement with Maori was discussed and in particular the issue of compensation. At what point would a Crown decision to reallocate fish from commercial to amateur fishers impact sufficiently to generate a further grievance and possibly trigger the payment of compensation? A request was made that officials provide the meeting participants with a list of the quota transferred to Maori as part of the interim settlement. Issues such as Taiapure and Mätaitai were discussed. Officials were asked to supply details of the number of such reserves established to date and their location.

The term recreational fisher was discussed and whether it was appropriate. AF felt that the terms – non-commercial or amateur would be better. [The writer has chosen to use the term amateur fisher for these notes.]

The suggested process was discussed. The Minister indicated at the meeting with amateur fishers on 16 December he wanted to proceed with the reform process but he wanted this process to be completed by the end of 2004. Of necessity this means that the draft time frame and process submitted to the meeting for completing all the suggested stages in the process is tight. O acknowledged that those groups represented at the meeting needed to be comfortable about what was proposed but a longer process would likely preclude legislation in this electoral cycle. AF expressed concerns as to whether the process outlined fitted with amateur fishers need to inform their constituent groups, to discuss various issues with these constituent groups, and, amongst other matters, reach decisions on whether or how to proceed with what was proposed. AF rejected the notion of an imposed process and timeline. Further consideration was required. O said that the proposed arrangements weren’t perfect but that there was a need to get the work done.

AF suggested that attendees at the meeting needed to show their constituent groups that some progress was being achieved over and above matters such as timetables and processes. O suggested that it was impractical to expect a full discussion about a reform option and related issues within the confine of one meeting and that some process was needed to guide future discussions and the development of reform options.

O provided copies of some explanatory talking points to explain the process and other agenda items. AF felt they needed further time to consider both the process and the time frame proposed. The view was expressed that the participant organisations didn’t need to be bound by the Minister’s timetable. If it was going to take longer to determine a satisfactory reform proposal then there would be other ministers in other governments that would run with it. The need for reforms was seen as too important to be ignored by any government. The public needed to be convinced about a reform option otherwise there was likely to be a repeat of the adverse reactions to the “soundings” process. SNA1, and the possibility of future legal action, was used to illustrate why the reforms couldn’t be ignored.

AF expressed the view that they wanted to avoid a “them v us” situation. It was important that amateur fishers should be able to fully participate in the process, and that the process should be one of negotiating a reform option. O pointed out that as officials they had no mandate to negotiate on behalf of ministers nor was this the way government in most cases operated. There would be occasions during the proposed process when officials couldn’t be open (such as the provision of advice to the Minister) or when amateur fishers would not be permitted to participate such as the preparation of the Cabinet papers. AF accepted that it couldn’t be a negotiation in the sense of any outcome agreed within the reference group being unalterable (given the role of the minister, cabinet and the other agencies involved) but that the purpose of the reference group was to use members expertise to discuss and evaluate potential options in a transparent manner.

It was agreed that:

  • Meetings would be organised well in advance with adequate notice;
  • Reference group constituent member groups would be responsible about wider communication    beyond that group; and
  • Problems within the group would at least be discussed within the group before going public.

Purpose of Reform
This lead into a discussion about what the purpose of the reforms might be. Different interpretations of what Government hoped to achieve from the reforms were expressed. O stated that the objective had always been clear-to improve the quality of recreational fishing through better defining the recreational right (and thus protecting it from possible future erosion), providing for its integration with existing rights, and improving the operation of fisheries management. The reforms also sought to increase the participation of recreational fishers in the management of their fisheries. AF thought the reforms were more to do with capping the level of the public harvest to avoid future compensation issues for the Crown.

Resource and Priority Issues
The issue of resources was raised. The process required organisations representing amateur fishers to work on behalf of the public. These organisations had limited resources. Officials indicated they had only limited resources. Only one full time equivalent was available for the project. O quoted from a recently released discussion document by the Ministry for the Fisheries Services Plenary about additional resource proposals put to the Minister to support amateur fishers participation in the management of fisheries. Some AF expressed the view that what was proposed was too little. It was agreed that option4 would be sent a copy of the document and put on the mailing list. Officials indicated that meetings of the reference group would be held in locations and at times that minimised travel and accommodation costs for the majority of members.

AF saw a need for the Crown to act in good faith by not placing further constraints on the right to fish during the policy development proposals. O indicated that fishery management decisions would continue to be made during the policy development process. This was the Ministry’s on going business. A need was seen by some AF to conduct a review of the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986 contemporaniously with the development of a reform option. O thought that priorities and limited resources meant the process should focus on developing a reform option. If the right was properly defined other issues such as the regulations could be more easily dealt with in this framework.

Membership of the reference group was discussed. AF saw a need for some flexibility in the composition of this group to allow continuity, to provide for alternative members in the case of absence, and to expose others to what was being discussed. It was agreed to keep numbers at a manageable level. A smaller rather than a larger group might be more conducive to making progress. It was agreed that future representation on the Reference Group would consist of:

Membership Group Notes
Paul Barnes,
Scott Mcindoe
Kim Walshe

option4 reserves the right to bring, at its own expense, one observer member who might be Bill Cooke or Jason Foord, or Trish Rea or option4’s legal adviser Stephen Tee.
Ross Gildon
Geoff Rowling NZRFC

Alternate member Max Hetherington
Richard Baker
Jeff Romeril NZBGFC

Jeff Romeril is frequently out of town on business.

Richard acts as Geoff’s alternative. Richard may need to nominate an alternative if necessary.
Keith Ingram NZMTA

Alternate member John Collins NZMTA chief executive
Officials, MFish

Stan Crothers
Mark Edwards
Peter Cole

The need for operating rules was discussed. It was agreed that acting openly and honestly; to make criticisms of another group members actions directly rather than first going public; and to be accountable for your own actions were useful ways of operating. It was in every bodies interests to do so.

It was agreed there would be notes kept of the issues discussed at meetings and the decisions reached. It was also agreed that the draft of these would be circulated within 3 working days of the meeting being held. Members would have 2 working days to suggest corrections. A final draft is to be available 2 working days after comments on the draft have been received.

How widely the notes should be circulated was discussed. Some AF felt they should be circulated to a wider group beyond the Reference Group members. It was decided that this should be a matter for the constituent groups to decide. The constituent groups would be accountable for any misuse of the notes. It was agreed that officials will distribute the minutes electronically to group members. Distribution to a wider group is the responsibility of the constituent groups making up the Reference Group.

The timing of future meetings was discussed. A late afternoon start wasn’t ideal for many out of town participants. A mid morning start suited most participants. It was agreed to hold further meetings.

Agreed dates and times were:
19 February * 10am-4pm
12 March 10am-4pm
3 April 10am-4pm

Location: Bucklands Beach Yacht Club, Auckland

*some members are now unavailable for this date. Apologies. A new meeting time is being arranged.

Next Agenda
A possible agenda for the next meeting was discussed. There was debate over the best way to develop a reform option recognising both the principals set out in the sectors 8 December and the constraints referred to in the Minister’s letter of 21 January. What did priority mean in practice. This needed to be discussed. It was agreed the next meeting should focus on discussing reform options consistent with the constraints identified in the Minister’s letter and the principles set out in the 8 December letter.

It was also agreed that officials would provide a short briefing on Oceans policy to the group at the next meeting. O provided a very brief overview prior to the meeting closing.

Occasional Papers
The occasional papers were briefly discussed. Many AF present had comments and questions. O undertook to combine the occasional papers into one Word document with consecutively numbered paragraphs and email this document to Reference Group members. This would enable better identification of issues for discussion at a subsequent meeting.

The meeting concluded at 8.00pm

Agreed Actions

  • Officials to provide a list of the quota transferred to Maori as part of the interim settlement.
  • Officials to provide a list of taiapures and mataitai reserves and locations.
  • Officials to provide option4 with an electronic and hard copy of a recently released discussion document by the Ministry for the Fisheries Services Plenary and to ensure option4 is on future mailing lists.
  • Officials to send out draft meeting notes within three working days of the meeting and finalised meeting notes within two working days of any corrections being received.
  • Reference Group members to send corrections to the draft notes within two working days of their receipt.
  • Officials to provide a paper setting out where the right to fish came from, how (and at what point) this right to fish became eroded and subservient to other statutory rights and obligations.
  • Officials to combine the occasional papers into one Word document with consecutively numbered paragraphs and email this document to Reference Group members.

Agreed for consideration at the next meeting:
Discussion of reform options consistent with the constraints set out in the Minister’s letter of 21 January and the principles in the 8 December letter; and
Briefing on “Oceans Policy”.

Agreed for future discussion:
Consultation with Maori;
SNA2 decision; and
The Ministry's lack of response to various papers submitted to the MCG by amateur fishers.

Minutes of other Reference Group meetings here »


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