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option4 Update #11 Nov 2001

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Time to Put Up or Shut Up
10 November 2001

Dear [ subscriber ]

Recreational fisheries - it's time to put up or shut up?

In this Update, arguably our most important to date, we ask for your feedback on some crucial directions option4 is considering taking.

Should option4 mount a legal challenge based on human rights issues?

Should option4 employ a fisheries scientist to act in a watchdog role until the rights issue is resolved?

Should option4 do nothing?

Please take the time to read thoroughly and respond now using the form at the end of this email!

The decisions we make now may be the most important for us in the whole process of defining the public right in our fisheries.

Are we winning or simply fiddling while Rome burns?

option4's fight for the continued individual rights of all New Zealander's to fish for food and recreation, and the priority nature of those rights over commercial fishing has now been waged for 14 months on your behalf.

It is now obvious that a stalemate is imminent. The essence of the debate is, do we or don't we have a priority over commercial fishers.

The Government, through the Ministry of Fisheries, continues to hold the view that neither commercial nor recreational fishers have priority over one another. option4 finds this position untenable because the public were not consulted about, nor did they agree to, constraining all future generations of New Zealanders to the leftovers from the implementation of the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986.

If sufficient public support is forthcoming option4 will focus on the following two areas in an endeavour to break the stalemate:


Human rights issues
While the Government position focuses on defining "recreational fishing" option4 believes that if the people harvesting fish or shellfish do so primarily or substantively for food, then the issue is not about recreational fishing. It is about the public's right to gather seafood from a public resource for subsistence and sustenance purposes, to share that food with family and friends and, whether or not that right has priority over commercial use of that same resource.

It is also about the existence of well-documented prior access to those resources forming the foundation of that right and the customary nature of prior-access where that forms a part of the culture and tradition of the people. It is about the right to food, the right to access one's food and to harvest food for subsistence and sustenance purposes. In a nutshell it is a human rights issue.
It is a core responsibility of Government not to interfere with such rights or enact legislation that allows others to interfere with those rights. Where the Government has eroded these rights, it is also a core role of the Government to undo that injustice.

option4 also considers the Government has inadequately addressed the social, economic and cultural well being of all New Zealanders within it's current position. One recent survey indicates 1.3 million New Zealanders go fishing (a total of 14 million trips per annum). By the time we share some of our harvest with our friends and families most of the population enjoy the benefits of us going fishing.

Human rights, including the preservation of customs and traditions, are not based on race, religion, property or any other segregation of society.

In order to resolve the above issues option4 intends to appoint a constitutional legal advisor to test the validity or otherwise of the Government's position before any further progress can be made. A judicial review may be necessary. This will necessitate a significant fundraising effort on the part of option4.

Recreational fishing representatives have often reported that their input into fishery management decisions is dismissed as anecdotal by the Ministry of Fisheries. They have also reported that un-validated input from the fishing industry is more likely accepted as credible by the Ministry. This can bias management decisions in favour of the fishing industry.
To counter this situation and to raise the quality of recreational input into fisheries management decisions option4 is considering employing a fisheries scientist. The scientist will monitor and report back on fisheries research, the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) setting process, regulatory changes and the proposed introduction into the Quota Management System of 50 new species. The scientist would also monitor and have input into any Ministry of Fisheries proposals or Fisheries Plans to help prevent further erosion of the public's access to fish for food or recreation until the issue of the public right is resolved. This will also require a significant fundraising effort.

Just to refresh our supporters, here is a summary of events to date:
The issue of defining public fishing rights started when the Government invited the public to tell them how they wanted their fishery managed. That is the question 'Soundings" allegedly set out to find the answer to. The public certainly gave them an answer, but not the one they wanted to hear! The public wanted the four principles of option4 enshrined in legislation. The first option4 principle is that the public harvest should have priority over commercial fishing.

Despite the fact that option4 delivered over 61,000 submissions (which accounted for a staggering 98.5% of all submissions received in response to the consultation process), despite the fact that the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council and New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council both fully support the four principles of option4, it appears the Minister considers there is not sufficient consensus within the recreational sector for him to move forward with what he calls "Recreational Fishing Reforms". option4 simply cannot believe that such a clear and concise outcome can be construed as a lack of consensus.

So, what is the real issue?
In 1986, when transferable Property Rights were given to the commercial sector in perpetuity, no provision was made in law to allow for, or recognise, the future needs of, and the pre-existing rights of the New Zealand peoples to harvest from the sea.

Maori recognised this oversight, and have successfully claimed for both a commercial and traditional right. This cost the Government considerable compensation because of its failure to recognise the Maori rights, which were taken to create the commercial Quota Management System.

The inevitable erosion of your individual right to harvest fish for food or recreation by the creation of commercial fishing quota has yet to be resolved. It appears obvious that the "plan" was to get you (the public) to accept a proportional system and exchange your individual fishing right for a collective public quota. If successful this would have allowed the Government to avoid compensation issues as the population, and public harvest, increased. It would also have effectively made the public minor shareholders in the commercial fishery and absolved Government from having to allocate the resource between the sectors. This is just one of the nightmares the Ministry and Government are keen to pass onto the public regarding the shortcomings of the Quota Management System to escape it's detrimental effects on the publics fishing and harvesting rights. If a proportional share wasn't accepted, the threat made in "Soundings" was that the public's fishing rights would be allowed to diminish under the status quo.

It is now time to have your say !!!!!!!
The Government, through the Ministry of Fisheries, holds the view that neither commercial nor recreational have priority over each other. option4 wants to mount a legal challenge to the government's position but will only do so if your support warrants that option4 expends the vast resources required to make it happen. option4 also considers it critical to employ a scientist to perform a watchdog role over challenges to our existing rights that may come from fisheries management decisions taken before the judicial review provides an answer.

Have Your Say !!
Should option4 mount a legal challenge based on human rights issues?


Should option4 employ a fisheries scientist to act in a watchdog role until the rights issue is resolved?


Should option4 do nothing?


(Please Note: This submit form has now been disabled.)

The Team at option4

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