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Minister of Fisheries Meeting with Recreational Fishers
16 December 2002

(This is not a verbatim record of the discussions. Only the main themes are recorded)

Venue: 20th floor meeting room Bowen House


Minister of Fisheries, Pete Hodgson

Recreational fishers(RF):
Paul Barnes
Kim Walshe
Richard Baker
Geoff Rowling
Keith Ingram
Ross Gildon

Stan Crothers
Mark Edwards
Peter Cole

The meeting started at 1910

The Minister opened by stating that he wanted to give the reform process another go but wanted feedback from the sector as to whether this was what it wanted and, if so, how it might be done. The Ministry had, for a variety of reasons, dropped the ball. If the process was to be restarted he didn’t want the ball dropped again. The process and participants would have to deliver next time.

Officials outlined the reason why there had been no substantial process. A key staff member had resigned part way through the year. Other work such as aquaculture reform, Treaty settlement issues, the marine reserves draft legislation had all impacted on the resources that a small policy section could devote to the project. The Ministry has engaged a contractor to work on the project full time but the sections work load including the impact the two investigations into the “scampi” allocation issue would mean that input into the project from other policy team members in 2003 would again be constrained.

RF stated that there was now common agreement amongst recreational fishers as to the outcome they wanted from the reform process and that this was set out in their letter to the Minister. Recreational fishers wanted Moyle’s promise honoured. There had been past misrepresentations by the Ministry of what recreational fishers wanted and that this had contributed to both the lack of trust in the Ministry that existed at present and the negative views about the Ministry.

The Minister acknowledged the lack of trust and reiterated that he couldn’t afford to have the ball dropped again. The Ministry had limited resources and he, as Minister, didn’t want to commit resources to a reform process that might not produce a result. He saw a need for a open and robust process that provided for participation but didn’t require significant resources to sustain its operation. He thought some form of legislative change was likely to be required. This introduced some uncertainties over which he had only limited control such as whether he could obtain a slot in the government’s legislative timetable.

RF stated that an open process with independent reporting was essential. Ministry reports obtained under the Official Information Act suggested that the Ministry was misrepresenting the views of recreational fishers. The status of Moyle’s promise was an issue. Officials had previously suggested that it had no status.

The importance of Moyle’s promise was reiterated, and the process leading up to its announcement discussed. The importance of the promise had been discussed at the Ministerial Advisory Group meetings. Recreational fishers attending these meetings had left with the impression that the Minister and officials had supported the promise as a basis for reforming the recreational right to fish. Officials indicated support for the ten national objectives had been expressed at these meetings. RF suggested that keeping minutes was essential to avoid this situation.

The nature of a priority right for recreational fishers was discussed. RF suggested that a distinction existed between sustenance and sports recreational fishers. Within the priority right for recreational fishers those fishing for sustenance purposes should have a higher priority. Priority didn’t mean unconstrained priority. There would be bag limits and recreational fishers would exercise voluntary restraint as they had always done. What they didn’t want to see was the product of their restraint given to commercial fishers as had been recommended in SNA2.

Officials suggested there were two components to a priority right – a spatial component and a share of the total allowable catch TAC. Altering the recreational share of the TAC had consequences if you wanted to maintain the integrity of the quota management system. The two consequences are: its impact on the Crown’s deed of settlement with Maori that was in large part effected through individual transferable quota; and claims for compensation from quota holders. These would arise because the Crown was not protected from compensation claims where reallocation occurred for other than sustainability reasons.

RF suggested that the reallocation could occur using the increased fish populations in rebuilding fisheries. Officials suggested that this too might attract compensation claims because the reallocation was occurring for other than sustainability reasons. It was suggested that compensation was the Crown’s problem and it should plan for it. There was a suggestion that experience from overseas might be relevant. Some Australian states were retiring commercial fishing rights from recreational fishing areas. How was this being funded?

Officials suggested that spatial priority (depending on its extent) might attract compensation claims. RF suggested there were alternatives that could be explored as to how any compensation could be funded. Possibly these options should be put to recreational fishers for them to decide. There needed to be a proper negotiation process to address these issues rather than the Ministry developing options and then reworking options based on the feedback. A negotiated outcome was required.

The Minister pointed out that there were some stages in the process where Crown had certain prerogatives. These needed to be acknowledged.

The meeting then turned to discuss what process might be followed. The Minister suggested some operating procedures or rules of engagement might be useful in facilitating future discussions. Officials suggested a revised time line under which discussions with sector would take place in January-April 2003 on the process to be followed, the occasional papers, and what the components of a revised recreational right to fish might be. Officials would have to report back to the Minister and Cabinet on the outcome including a preferred recreational reform option. If approved this option would then be the subject of a further round of public consultation in July-October 2003. A report back to Cabinet would follow. If legislative change is required this process would occur in 2004 including select committee consideration of any legislative change. The earliest any legislative change could be expected was late November 2004.

The Minister stated his support for getting the process underway again but indicated he wanted to be assured that there was a reasonable prospect for an agreed reform option being produced. He noted that he couldn’t guarantee a legislative slot if legislative change was required.

Commitment to proceeding further was discussed. It was suggested that the present right was largely given expression by the restrictions applied to it under the amateur fishing regulations and through fishery management decisions impacting on recreational fisheries. RF suggested there should be both a review of the amateur fishing regulations before any further work was done on reforming the right, and in the interim, no fishery management decisions adversely impacting on recreational fishers should be taken. There was a discussion of the implications of this and what it meant in practical terms. Some felt a review of the regulations should not take precedence over the review of the recreational fishing right. Conducting a review of the regulations would have a significant impact on any timeline for reviewing the right, pushing it out beyond the term of the present government. The view was expressed that it was better to get a quality job done rather than to rush the process. The Minister indicated that he wasn’t averse to reviewing the regulations but had concerns about the timing and resource implications. He doubted it should form part of the review of the right to fish. The discussion returned to the future components of the recreational right and the need to be clear about these before people could commit their time and resources to a process of reform.

It was suggested that as time was running out it might be better to focus on the process and rules of engagement. Some suggestions put forward by RF were:

• Negotiation based;
• Open;
• Minutes to be kept of meetings;
• Costs of liasing with members to be meet by Ministry; and
• Process should be broken into smaller meaningful stages to allow participants to establish whether they wanted to proceed to next stage.

Officials suggested that a further meeting be held in late January 2003 to discuss process options for proceeding further and to then determine the extent of support for any further meetings.

The meeting concluded at 2130


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