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Reference Group - 2nd Meeting

18 February 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 Macindoe
Mark Edwards
Jason Foord
Peter Cole
Kim Walshe  
Ross Gildon  
Stephen Tee  
Keith Ingram  
Richard Baker  
Jeff Romeril  

The meeting commenced at approximately 1.30pm at the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club.

There were two main agenda items:

  • Matters arising from the 29 January meeting;
  • Development of reform options consistent with the constraints set out in the Minister of Fisheries letter of 21 January 2003 and the principles set out in the joint letter dated 8 December 2002.

Notes from the last meeting:

Notes from the last meeting were accepted with amendments to the spelling of several alternate members of the group.

Actions arising from the last meeting:

Provide a list of the quota transferred to Maori as part of the interim settlement. Referred to Service Delivery within the Ministry for action.
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. option4 now has document.
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. (Fisheries Management) Ministry of Fisheries to action.
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. Submitted at meeting.
Combine the occasional papers into one Word document with consecutively numbered paragraphs and email this document to Reference Group members. Sent to reference group members by email on 31 January.

The paper setting out how (and at what point) the right to fish by amateur fishers became subject to constraints was discussed. AF thought it didn’t think it covered a key issue originally raised about the right to fish for food or sustenance. O indicated that the law didn’t distinguish between amateur sport and sustenance fishing. AF asked about the legal status of the paper. Had it been reviewed by the Ministry’s legal section. O indicated the paper was largely historical in its scope. The legal aspects were addressed in the occasional papers-paragraphs 25-51. This paper had been peer reviewed by Crown Law and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade. A wide-ranging discussion followed about the difficulties of managing a shared fishery where the groups sharing the resource had different needs and significantly different access rights. AF raised the issue of the Crown’s obligations to provide for sustenance fishing under various UN conventions. Officials stated that these “soft law” statements did not bind the Crown. [This issue is addressed in paragraphs 44-49 of the occasional papers.] Officials undertook to provide a further paper specifically addressing when the right to fish for sustenance purposes became subject to constraints.

Development of Reform Options

A “talking points” paper prepared by officials was circulated. [Attached as an appendix to these notes.] This focused on the nature of the principles from the 8 December letter and the constraints set out in the Minister’s letter. AF made it clear that any papers to be discussed at the Reference Group meetings needed to be emailed at least three days prior to the meeting in order to ensure meaningful discussion. Officials accepted the desirability of this but noted that it might not always be possible.


AF indicated that the priority right referred to in the joint letter shouldn’t be read in isolation from the other principles particularly the principle relating to the ability to devise plans. Amateur fishers were not seeking an absolute unconditional priority right. It will be conditional on not wasting or squandering the resource. What they are seeking is a planning process to improve the utilisation of the resource. The right to develop plans and sustainability measures- [changes as appropriate to method or gear use, size limits, bag limits etc]- to achieve improved utilisation of the resource.

If the stock assessment suggested the need to reduce take both commercial and amateur fishers should be given the opportunity to implement measures that reduced fishing mortality and wasteful fishing practices. If, after the implementation of these measures, it was apparent that the abundance of fish was insufficient to meet the needs of commercial and amateur fishers, then the priority would be invoked and a reallocation take place to restore the “recreational” allowance to a level that provided a reasonable daily bag limit. Any allocation process needed to ensure that those groups who contributed to sustaining and rebuilding fish stocks benefited according to their contributions. AF felt all to often the benefits of their contribution to rebuilding fish stocks were appropriated by the commercial sector.

The concept of a limited spatial priority as suggested in the “talking points” paper was discussed. AF expressed the need for the priority right to reflect the nature of the fish stocks. Some popular recreational species were migratory (kingfish). A limited spatial right might not prove effective in these circumstances. Other species were more sedentary (shell fish and crayfish). Spatial priority might be appropriate in these circumstances.

AF suggested it might be useful to test priority options by looking at the likely outcomes for key recreational species such as snapper, kahawai, blue cod, kingfish, rock lobster, scallops. Working through an example produced the following important issues:

  • Need to research biomass, harvest levels and sustainability levels;
  • If harvest is above sustainable levels, need to look at alternative ways of accommodating harvest but with reduced impact on sustainability e.g gear changes [commercial sector still using diamond netting was used as an example], and performance standards. Might need to poll amateur fishers on the options and outcomes;
  • Recreational demand is highest near population centres so fishery management may need to be different in these localities;
  • AMP programmes were not appropriate in shared fisheries unless all sectors shared in the benefits
  • Other innovative ways to retain recruitment (such as closures after those year where recruitment is very abundant to give these juveniles are better chance to mature and add to the biomass);
  • Population growth in regions such as Auckland leads to increases in overall fishing effort in fisheries accessible from Auckland and to increased harvest take;
  • Incentive structures not working as well as expected. Competitive pressures were seen by officials as a disincentive in some circumstances to work collectively;
  • Msy v Mey ; sustenance needs v sports (larger fish) needs;
  • Need for fishery management processes to be such that amateur fisher contribution to sustainability were recognised and secured and not given to other sectors;
  • If after available fishery management tools not successful in improving sustainability of fish stock then allocative criteria needed to give effect to amateur priority through a gradual reallocation over time from commercial to recreational.

Point of Agreement

  • Officials and amateur fishers agreed that some aspects of the incentive structures implicit in the QMS model are not working as well as expected. For example, the incentives commercial fishers had to fish on sustainable basis were not totally effective. Commercial fishers still used diamond netting in the snapper fisheries that resulted in many undersized juvenile fish being landed, increasing mortality levels and negatively impacting on the sustainability of the fishery;
  • Commercial and amateur fishers have different demands-catch rate generally more important to amateur fishers;
  • Two important rights for New Zealanders-to harvest sea food for your family, and to be able to purchase fish for your own use.

The operation of s311 was discussed and the outcome of implementing measures leading to a spatial priority for amateur fishers. AF dislike the process because it is resource intensive and AF lack resources. Officials indicated use of s311 had lead to priority for AF being implemented in three areas.


Officials suggested that specific allocation criteria should be a key component of any reallocation process and drew attention to a section in the occasional papers outlining possible criteria. [See paragraphs 15-17]. At present the Fisheries Act 1996 was silent about the matters the Minister should take into consideration when making allocative decisions. Specifying the matters the Minister had to take into consideration, such as equity issues arising from the actions of particular user groups in contributing to or undermining sustainability efforts; participation rates; population trends; fishing practices was important. These were all issues that had been raised in the discussion but amateur fishers felt were not adequately reflected in current allocative decisions.

Point of agreement

  • Criteria to guide allocation decisions would be useful
  • Amateur fishing rights not adequately specified in legislation;

AF consider how fish are utilised is an important allocative issue particularly given the wastage that occurs in commercial and to a lesser extent in amateur fishing. Officials noted that in Australia amateur fishing organisations had been contracted to develop a code of practice for amateur fishers, part of which covered utilisation issues. It was possible this could be done in New Zealand.

Point of agreement

  • Officials and amateur fishers agreed that equity is an important consideration in any allocative decision. It is inequitable if one group’s contribution to ensuring a sustainable fishery is not reflected in its allocation. Similarly, it would be inequitable if all groups were expected to bear the burden of sustainability measures (such as reduced allocations) necessitated by the actions of one group;
  • Sectors need security about fishery management outcomes to provide incentives to take proactive management initiatives.


Decisions to reduce the take for other than sustainability reasons, or decisions that have the effect of reallocating take might attract compensation claims. The issue of compensation; when it might be payable and how it might be funded was discussed. O explained that the protections in s308 did not apply to non-sustainability decisions. Whether, and the amount of compensation payable when decisions for non-sustainability reasons were made was for the Courts to decide. Compensation was an issue for the Crown to consider in any decision involving reallocation for non-sustainability reasons.

The issue of whether the s 308 protection applied to decisions to set a TAC for the first time to fish stock already in the QMS [such as the recent SNA2 decision] was discussed. O indicated it did not. This lead into a discussion about how these circumstance came about. [QMS was established under the 1986 amendment to the 1983 Fisheries Act but there only existed a provision to establish a TACC under this legislation. Quota were for fixed amounts, with compensation provided for reductions in quota. In 1990, this changed to a regime of proportional quota.] Officials undertook to provide a paper on the regime changes that took place at that time. AF requested that this paper include purpose and intent of changes to legislation, consultation process followed and summary of said consultation results. Officials indicated that the project didn’t have the level of resources necessary to provide this degree of detail.

Officials suggested that in many respects the arrangements in place to manage amateur marine fishing in some of the Australian States (New South Wales and Victoria in particular) had addressed the issues (such as allocation and compensation) the Reference Group was debating and that it might be useful to draw on their experience. The possibility of sponsored travel to Australia to talk with amateur fishers and officials was raised. Officials undertook to prepare a paper setting out fishery management structures and processes in a range of Australian states.

The meeting concluded at 5.15pm

Agreed Actions

Officials undertook to provide a further paper specifically addressing when the right to fish for sustenance purposes became subject to constraints.

Officials undertook to provide a paper on the fishery management regime change implemented through the Fisheries Amendment Act 1990. AF requested that this paper include purpose and intent of changes to legislation, consultation process followed and summary of said consultation results.[As indicated above officials did not agree to provide a paper with this level of detail.]

Officials undertook to prepare a paper setting out the fishery management structures and processes in a range of Australian states.

Minutes of other Reference Group meetings here »


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