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option4 Update #9 Aug 2001

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We The Silent Majority
31 August 2001

Dear [ subscriber ]

Hamilton Boat Show
Starting (Thursday 30/8/01) - option4 team members will be there. A dedicated team, led by Trish Rea, are on deck at the Ramco stand. Thank you Bill Mackerill of Ramco Boats for your very real support.

What’s been going on.
We are conscious of the lack of information flowing to you, option4 supporters, the very reason for our existence. The debate/process has however been ongoing and intense, and for good reasons, subject to a little Government control.

In May the Minister asked option4 to nominate individuals to join what was being named the Ministerial Advisory Group. This was subsequently formed as the Ministerial Consultative Group (MCG) – the purpose of which was/is to offer the Minister a sounding board for Ministry generated policy recommendations.

The first MCG meeting in Wellington on 25/6/01 with nine recreational representatives drawn from option4, Rec Fishing Council, New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, a charter operator and a Maori Customary representative. The meeting commenced with significant discussion regards confidentiality. option4 were uncomfortable with any level of gagging or confidentiality agreement which precluded wider discussion with involved and affected parties. The Minister recognised our concern and agreed that papers presented and discussed were available to be shared with those whom the MCG participants felt they needed to consult with. It was confirmed that “who said what” would remain confidential (Chatham House Rules) in order to foster open and candid debate and prevent future recriminations at a personal level. The Minister is to be acknowledged for his understanding and consent to our request.

The Ministry personnel attending then presented three “Draft Working Papers” for consideration structured as follows:

1. Improved information
2. Management structure
3. Define rights

In effect those attending were being presented with draft policy ideas and formulations on how the rights of recreational anglers could be strengthened and enhanced. In addition, ideas on management regimes and structures were advanced and the method through which recreational catches could be better measured.

A response to these papers was requested by the Minister and after further general discussion the meeting ended with representatives analysing and talking about the papers late into the night. There were mixed views on the subject matter and consensus was not immediately apparent on many of the proposals. However, it was at least something to get our collective teeth into.

The 9 days following this meeting saw a massive effort go in by the “option4 wider consultative network” to respond in writing to those Draft Working Papers. The New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council  (NZBGFC) delivered a very well reasoned set of responses as well. The attendees drawn from the RFC submitted individual responses. It must be remembered that attendees were not seen as being recreational “group” representatives in the eyes of the Minister at this time. Both option4 and the NZBGFC however have always seen our roles as representatives of our groups and not the individual participation as suggested by the Minister.

The second MCG meeting on 10/7/01 saw the “sounding board” responses acknowledged briefly by the Minister. There was concern by non-recreational attendees that the recreational response was not per their expectations. The Minister recognised that option4 and others were clearly not accepting of the proposals that Ministry were promoting and wished to advance the discussion to achieve consensus. For the record, option4 determined that we were facing a policy drafted on the principles of options 2 and 3 from “Soundings” which we understood had clearly been discarded by the volume of option4 supporters. The Draft Policy document was then “taken off the table” at the request of the Minister. Discussion then proceeded with the Labour Party’s 1989 Recreational Fishing Policy - “Moyle’s Promise” - being put on the table by option4. This was in response to the Minister asking what it was that we DID agree with!  Attendees were genuinely elated at such a major breakthrough.

There appeared to be acceptance of the principles of this paper (check it out on our website ) and the meeting concluded with the attendees being requested to produce further written submissions on what would be acceptable policy or legislative changes to satisfy the recreational lobby. Discussion on the “right” was also held and attendees were advised that certain changes to the Fisheries Act had already impacted on any common law right such that there was no longer the said provision. Again further private and group discussion were held after the Minister’s departure some extending into the wee small hours……

Detailed discussion and the now common e-dialogue commenced the next day. The sense of optimism and genuine feeling that progress was being made was soured when a modicum of research by one of our members  revealed that the s89 statement was substantially incorrect and had no legal founding. Concerns over why this had been raised became the topic of many discussions and emails. A meeting with option4 legal council was quickly arranged and our fears were substantiated. Discussions on all legal avenues was explored and noted for future reference. It was realised that we were again doing Ministry’s work for them. To further assure ourselves of the legalities relating to our actual legal rights a meeting was convened in Auckland to which all recreational groups involved in the MCG were invited. Additional guests attended and the meeting centred on an expert on the 1996 Fisheries Act who must remain nameless. To ensure that nothing was missed the entire meeting was captured on video. Again we were advised that our rights were much stronger than we had been previously advised and it was recommended that we resisted any changes to the current and imminent legislation coming into force. Accordingly, we did not submit to the Minister’s request to deliver our thoughts on legislative changes and alterations at the next MCG held on 30/7/01 and had to advise him of why. He again accepted our concerns and advised that without consensus he would find it difficult to proceed.

We then requested that a summit meeting be held comprising of a full day in Auckland where the issues could be properly presented and our thoughts could be further refined. This meeting is still to be held but is scheduled for the first week in September. In addition, option4 has held another full day meeting to further investigate our legislative position and to explore strategies for the summit meeting. An option4 member has thoroughly researched International law and Fisheries Treaties to which New Zealand is a signatory and has also discovered a wealth of research and information on fisheries management techniques and tools. The singular disturbing fact to emerge from two weeks of full time work is that there is a massive lack or indeed absence of information relating to the rights of individuals to fish in the sea. There are hundreds of research documents on Maori and Indigenous people’s rights but next to nothing on anyone else’s. We are apparently the silent majority.

option4 are committed to seeing this process through and are ourselves frustrated at our inability to more fully communicate the real detail. However, work will shortly commence on extensions within the web site to include a “Knowledge Basket” which will allow supporters to explore the legislation and the issues as far as they desire. This will include summaries of International Treaties and copies of important research papers relating to our fisheries and a copy of the entire Fisheries Act itself, including amendments.

As stated previously, the summit meeting will be held soon and option4 will produce an update of the meeting as quickly as is possible. Until then, remember that you can’t catch a fish without having a line in the water (preferably with a hook attached to it!).

Happy fishing.

Scott Macindoe and Bill Ross
option4 spokespeople.

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