This article was originally published in The New Zealand Herald 4 June 2006
Fishing groups challenging the kahawai quota that fishers are allowed to catch have had their legal challenge put on hold again. Karen Kotze gets her hooks into the issue.
A historic High Court challenge has been delayed, frustrating thousands of recreational and amateur fishers asserting their right to fish.
The Kahawai Legal Challenge lobby group says it’s the first time recreational fishers have taken the Minister of Fisheries to court in 20 years of the quota management system and follows “many unfavourable” management decisions that have made it harder for the public to catch a reasonable daily bag limit. The test cast seeks to protect the rights of the non-commercial fishing public.
The case was to begin on Tuesday and was expected to take four days. Justice Paul Heath was to hear the claim from the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council challenging the Minister of Fisheries’ decision making over the management and allocation of kahawai under the quota management system.
The largest iwi in the country, Ngapuhi, has provided an affidavit in support of the claim by the fishing groups, and fishing advocacy group option4 also backs the action.
The option4 group says the response to its submission to the Ministry’s Soundings process was tremendous. Of 62,117 submissions made, 61,178 (98.5%) supported the option objective and its four principles.
The delay of the court case for the Kahawai Legal Challenge has raised the hackles of Half Moon Bay’s Keith Ingram, president of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council.
The High Court review has had to be rescheduled until after August 1.
Mr Ingram says that some in the recreational fishing sector are accusing the Crown of trying to burn out opposition to their plan by employing delaying tactics.
“I’m not sure either way, but obviously every delay costs money,” he says.
He says the Kahawai Legal Challenge documents were lodged with the Crown eight months ago.
They were meant to hear back from the Crown three or four months ago, and to receive and examine the relevant affidavits and documentation in the case.
Mr Ingram says they are still waiting. “Essentially, our legal counsel has not had the opportunity to review evidence from the Crown. We felt our case would have been prejudiced by this.
“Our legal counsel needs to be able to prepare representation based on these documents, which have not been forthcoming.”
He says the Crown claims it is still waiting for some of its own people to respond to affidavits, and that has caused the delay.
“This is a very important public case for everyone who fishes for food or fun. It is essential that the public knows that the delay has been caused by legal slippage outside of our control and has been caused by the Crown legal team,” Mr Ingram says.
He stresses the case will go on despite the added costs of this delay.
Mr Ingram adds there is a strong public interest factor in the case over kahawai.
“It is not about our own interests. This is a case for and on behalf of the fishing public of New Zealand.”
He says that one in three New Zealanders fish either recreationally or for food, and that most amateur fishing is about putting fresh seafood on the family table as it is about fun and recreation.