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Divided We Fall by Stu Davidson - 16 October 2000


I have read the responses from Peter and Paul with interest and now await Mary's. Levity aside, I believe option4 is the most positive initiative from amateur anglers in my memory.

With regard to the debate I would like to raise a few issues.

It could be naive to believe that option4 in it's simplified and current version would in anyway represent the final decision by government. I believe the final outcome may well be a combination of all four options, and further submissions. However, in saying that I hope the outcome is closer to option4 that the three proposed at present.

While on one hand I find it disappointing that option4 leaves little room for compromise on some pretty heavy aspects, I am never the less confident that compromise does remain on the proponents agenda. I am also under no disillusionment, that they are determined that any compromise will be vital to a satisfactory resolution and acceptable to the majority of anglers. There is a long way to go and I hope that the organizers will remain committed until an acceptable outcome is on the horizon.

The time frame for submissions is typically less than desired, particularly when one is aware of how long it took for the Soundings document to be researched and published. It is in this regard that option4 perhaps demonstrates it's real value. With little time to prepare, an exciting forum has been developed and excellently promoted. It appears to be galvanizing anglers on all sides of the debate and that is refreshing to say the least.

Peter Ellery is well versed in the politics of fishing and his opinion must count, that is democracy. However I was again disappointed to read a reaction that largely resembled a shooting of the messenger. While supporting amateur representatives and the hard graft they do voluntarily day after day, Peter is well aware of the shortcomings of MFish, the NZRFC, NZBGFC and amateur anglers when it comes to matters of urgency. They are all hamstrung by politics and the snails pace it inherits.

I will digress briefly, to provide a recent illustration of our weakness as political animals. To their credit, Peter, and representatives of NZBGFC affiliated clubs, attended a recent 'emergency' public meeting in Whakatane to discuss the manner in which DoC was introducing a marine reserve. In summary, those present at the meeting learned that amateur anglers had not fielded a representative to any meeting of the reserve steering committee. The charter boat skippers were not represented much better. No meeting of amateur anglers, either club members or public had been organized until it was too late, and approaches to MFish for last minute advice and intervention, failed to achieve anything. When the local commercial representative had a mandate to state clearly if they were 'out' then everyone else was, is MFish's lack of interest surprising, I don't think so?

While not entirely to blame, the structures of NZBGFC and NZRFC prevented their seeking of direct representation on the reserve steering committee when they were well aware that discussions had been in progress for some years. In conclusion, one would have to look far and wide for a better example of absolute apathy by amateurs with a total disregard for the current and future generations of anglers. Further more, it took place in district renown for it's amateur fishing reputation. It happened, it is ongoing.

I also recall a similar situation in the 80's when MAF was planning to introduce bag limits for amateurs while commercial fishermen were still landing and selling legal snapper under 10 inches. The NZRFC was slow and hesitant to act and believed that they had the measure of MAF. In a desperate and last minute panic, an opposing national petition with the assistance of the NZFN magazine was launched. It worked and I believe option4 can be compared to a second national petition.

That is why I support option4 in principle. It has acted on behalf of us all with necessary speed. It has promoted a hard-line, initial approach. The organizers are totally committed and professional, which is amply demonstrated by this Internet site.

Debate on the finer points of option4 will come at a later date, just as they will in regard to Options 1, 2, 3 and other submissions. In the meantime and while the NZRFC is bound by political convention and cannot be seen to speak forthrightly on the issue, it would pay for all of us to remember, "United we stand. Divided we fall."

On a final note, you will note I have referred to recreational anglers as amateurs. We are still governed by amateur regulations and I believe the moment we accepted the title of recreational anglers, our place in the fishery was restricted in law and debate to a fun and sport participation. In other words a third and frivolous status.

I am a club and sport angler. I believe I have a fishing heritage and a revered respect for the sea and it's inhabitants, passed on by five previous generations of Kiwi's. I intend to do likewise in respect of the two and more generations ahead. I go fishing predominately to feed my family and friends, as do the vast majority of anglers in this country.

If you represent recreational anglers, and ignore the interests of amateurs, you risk losing all credibility.

Stu Davidson

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