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option4 Update #50 NZFN Jan 2005

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Divide and Conquer

NZ Fishing News
Jan 2005

Check out the Crimpy cartoon that accompanied this article in the New Zealand Fishing News

here » » (64Kb)


David Benson-Pope seems to have taken a leaf out of the Department of Conservation's public relations manual in proposing to give recreational fishers a "new voice in fisheries decision-making". On initial reading the proposal looks very promising but the announcement from the Minister of Fisheries to establish an independent ministerial recreational fishing advisory panel as well as a network of forums is light on detail. If this proposal is not a divide-and-conquer tactic then option4 will be pleasantly surprised.

option4 has been working very hard with the other national recreational fishing organisations to mount a legal challenge to the Minister's kahawai decision. The NZ Big Game Fishing Council and the NZ Recreational Fishing Council are the official applicants to the Kahawai Legal Challenge. Recreational fishers have never been better represented. The court case is the opportunity to define once and for all what is meant by the term "non-commercial fishing interests" in the Fisheries Act.

No doubt the Minister has considered the legal challenge and has decided that his interests lie in splitting the country into small manageable forums where Ministry staff can gain support for their initiatives.

The announcement states, "the ministerial advisory panel will be an expert group of recreational fishers and will advise the minister directly on the strategic issues confronting the recreational sector." How much more advice does this man require?

option4, the NZ Big Game Fishing Council, the NZ Recreational Fishing Council and the NZ Angling and Casting Association have spent the last four years, since the Soundings debacle, discussing, meeting and debating fisheries management and our rights to access these fisheries.

option4 is very willing to meet with the Minister and discuss issues of concern but the reality is we need to determine national issues, such as what is meant by section 21 of the Fisheries Act.   This says, "In setting or varying any total allowable commercial catch for any quota management stock, the Minister shall have regard to the total allowable catch for that stock and shall

allow for

  1. The following non-commercial fishing interests in that stock, namely –
    1. Maori customary non-commercial fishing interests; and
    2. Recreational interests; and
  2. All other mortality to that stock caused by fishing.

In previous discussion forums even Ministry staff have agreed that it would be beneficial to have this determination, so at least we can get on with participating and having an impact on fisheries management decisions.

It's no wonder the Minister says, "the regional recreational forums have the potential to be as valuable as the regular meetings he has with the seafood industry, which have helped to better understand issues in that sector." Unfortunately since becoming the Minister option4 has not been able to have serious influence on what Benson-Pope has decided.   His kahawai decision is a classic example of a new Minister leaning on an old Ministry for advice.

The Minister goes on to say, "the management of our fisheries resource recognises that commercial, recreational and customary fishers all have a stake." But when the allocation of those stakes is based on catch history alone it is the companies that have thrashed the resource the hardest that get the biggest share. When considering a fishery the Minister has to allow for our non-commercial interests, that is Maori customary and recreational. If he doesn't understand this concept then the only course of action left to us is to have the courts determine what our interests are.

While we are still considering a formal response to the Minister on his announcement we have two very clear recollections of Ministry staff making statements that we will not forget. One was at a public meeting held in South Auckland to discuss the Soundings proposal. When put under immense pressure to explain why Soundings was the way forward in fisheries management the Ministry representative said the purpose of Soundings was to cap recreational take while avoiding compensation issues for the Crown.

A more recent example of Ministry attitude was delivered during the scampi debate, where the Court of Appeal judge, Justice Ted Thomas, was particularly scathing. He said: "It is possible that the Ministry is under the impression that it is not obliged to act fairly in administering the various provisions of the Act". He went on to say,   "Ms Duffy, who appeared for the Ministry and the Chief Executive, submitted that the Ministry was not under a duty to act fairly in determining fishers' access to fisheries. I emphatically reject this submission. The court is of course acutely conscious that certain fishers have acquired vested interests and that these interests will be disturbed."

It is apparent that the Court of Appeal saw through the Ministry's strategy.   The courts can give an honest and independent view of the way the Minister and officials acted.

It is now time the Ministry and this Minister started viewing our fisheries as a national asset and set about improving their quality rather than undermining them to avoid compensation issues for the Crown. If a panel of advisors to the Minister can deliver better quality fishing they may win support. What we do not need are new groups to rubber stamp the Ministry's proposals merely to meet the Minister's consultation needs.

Check out the Crimpy cartoon that accompanied this article in the New Zealand Fishing News

here » » (64Kb)

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