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Meeting Minutes Mar 2001

option4 Meeting with the Minister

1 March 2001


Venue: Present:  
N.Z. Fishing News Pete Hodgson Minister of Fisheries
247 Church Street Megan Anderson Private Secretary - Fisheries
Penrose Graham Speedon Press Secretary
Auckland Scott Macindoe option4
  Paul Barnes option4 Project Leader
Time: Peggy Barnes option4
2:50 pm - 3:45 pm Kim Walshe option4
  Bill Cooke option4
  Bill Ross option4
  Diane O'Sullivan option4
  Grant Dixon option4
  Geoff Green option4

Minister Pete Hodgson opened the meeting with a speech on process. Mr. Hodgson saw the need to define a recreational right and his reason was that we need to look to the future and recognise the potential pressures such as Aquaculture, Marine Reserves, Marine Farming, Mining, Wind Turbines, Maori Customary and looking further out, pollution and sedimentation which can impinge on recreational access.

Mr. Hodgson conveyed that the recreational rights need to be better defined in law to protect the recreational slice of the pie. It needs to be easily seen in law as it is difficult to recognise the recreational portion under the current situation. He also conveyed the difficulty facing Government when consulting with the recreational sector other than some organisations such as option4 and the N.Z. Recreational Fishing Council.

Mr. Hodgson said that some problem was needed for groups like option4 to evolve. Consultation with Iwi is also difficult. He also said it was improper to have the recreational right defined without the public being fully aware of the issues and to only later wake up and be dissatisfied with the outcome. The Minister congratulated option4 for the part they played in raising public awareness.

Paul Barnes then read the following option4 position:

Honour the Draft 1986 and 1989 Recreational Fishing Policies

The cornerstone of our policies is that recreational fishing should have priority over commercial fishing. But, in saying this, the priority is not a blank cheque. Priority would be manifested in two ways: local area management, and division of the TAC.

The draft 1986 Policy was released in June 1986. This critical statement is made on page 8 of the draft policy

"MAF will give preference to non-commercial fishing in areas readily accessible to or popular with the public where a species of fish is not sufficiently abundant to support both non-commercial and commercial fishing."

In October 1986, these words were given effect to by the Fisheries Act that was introduced at this time spawning the Quota Management System. Section 28c stated:
"28c. Declaration of total allowable catch - (1) The Minister may, after allowing for the Maori, traditional, recreational, and other non-commercial interests in the fishery, by notice in the Gazette, specify the total allowable catch to be available for commercial fishing"

In later Fisheries Acts, Section 28c changed to section 28d, and now in the Act of 1996 it is found as section 21(1). But it has basically remained the same in its meaning.

The 1986 draft Policy became official Policy in 1989. The critical words in the draft 1986 policy are found basically the same in the 1989 Policy. The Minister of Fisheries at that time in 1989 (Colin Moyle) stated "Government's position is clear, where a species of fish is not sufficiently abundant to support both commercial and non-commercial fishing, preference will be given to non-commercial fishing."

Our point is that on it's own, maybe there is a bit of ambiguity to the meaning of section 28c. But when 28c is combined with the words from the draft 1986 Policy, there can be no doubt that the law intended non-commercial fishing to have a preference over commercial fishing. Only ardent industry lobbyists would be able to consider there was some other meaning.

Priority access - what do we mean by this?
The Eastern Bay of Plenty dispute is a classic example of what we are talking about in terms of priority access. Minister, you recently decided to resolve the dispute by agreeing to continue the 2 mile closed area along the coast. The line currently finishes near Opotiki, and you agreed to extend the 2nm line to Cape Runaway. We understand that the trawl fishing companies have called in their legal bully boys and are threatening to take you to Court.

We think you will win in Court, but how much easier would it be if the Fisheries Act was written differently, and there was a section specifically stating that the Minister could close an area as part of a preferential policy to non-commercial fishing. The current disputes procedure (section 114 -123 of the current Fisheries Act) is unworkable, and section 311 is an absolute dog. 311 will never be used, and looks as though it was written by somebody working for the trawl companies.

In the new Fisheries Act, the Government would also be exempted from having to pay compensation to commercial fishers for area closures to provide preferential access to non-commercial fishing. But, we will talk about this more later.

Back to the Eastern Bay dispute. The "applicants" were not greedy and did not ask for a 5 or 10 mile closure. All they asked for was that the same 2 mile closed area protecting most of the Bay of Plenty shoreline should be extended from Opotiki to Cape Runaway. But you would think from the reaction of the trawlermen that the applicants were asking for the world, and now they are threatening to take you to Court.

The Eastern Bay is also significant because this was a joint application between Maori tangata whenua people from Te Kaha and the Opotiki recreational surfcasting club. This is the way the real world works -- most customary Maori fishers want the same sorts of things as recreational fishers. A reasonable chance to catch a fish. Currently they do not have that chance. They have to spend all day and night in a small boat to catch enough fish to feed their families. And most often they fail, and catch only a couple of fish. The boat ramp surveys done by the Ministry show that 50% of recreational boat fishing trips in the North result in a zero catch. This is totally unacceptable.

But more on the Eastern Bay of Plenty dispute. Why should the applicants have had to go through the torturous path of the disputes procedure? It would have been much easier if you could have simply closed this area as a way of providing for preferential access to non-commercial fishing. That is, used the words in the 1986 and 1989 recreational fishing policies as the basis for your decision.

The new legislation would also need to exempt the Government from having to pay compensation to commercial fishermen for area closures to recreational fishing. There should be no area closures that were totally unreasonable that immediately put commercial fishermen out of business. Some of the ways of reducing the impact on the commercials, would be seasonal closures December to March), "time delays" - give the fishermen 2-3 years to move out of the area, or use a new fishing method.

The fundamental reason why fishermen should not be compensated is that we believe the fish in the sea are a public resource. Commercial fishermen can use and make money from this "public fish" up until the time that the public community says we would like access to the fish. Hypothetical example: a commercial fisherman can fish for twenty years in some harbour somewhere, but gradually as the population grows around that harbour, there will come a time when the community will say "enough is enough, we want to catch this fish. You can either target another species, or have 3 years to reorganise your affairs elsewhere.

The Government, and by default the public, should not have to pay public money to claim back the fish that belong to the public. The public has allowed the commercial fishermen the benefit of making money out of a public resource for a time period. It is as though the public's fish was on loan to the fishermen. But inevitably, there will come a time, when the public will want their fish back That time will vary from locality to locality, and will depend on the local circumstances.

I repeat the three elements to our priority policy.

First, it is time to honour the 1986 and 1989 recreational fishing policies and give non-commercial fishing a priority.

Second, the closure or management change to the commercial fishermen should not be instantaneous and so unreasonable as to be unjust.

And third, the Government and the public should therefore not have to pay compensation to simply get back the public's fish.

The last words should go to the Court of Appeal in the SNA1 Court case. On page 18 of their judgment, the Appeal Court stated that:

"The Minister is in our judgment entitled to bear in mind changing population patterns and population growth. If over time a greater recreational demand arises it would be strange if the Minister was precluded by some proportional rule from giving some extra [recreational (my insertion)] allowance to cover it . . .

Maori commercial fishing
The Ministry argues that 1992 Deed of Settlement with Maori means that non-commercial fishing cannot be given a priority. We do not agree.

The first point is that in the SNA1 Court case considered this matter because the Area 1 Maori [Commercial] Fishing Consortium raised the issue in some detail. Both the High Court and the Appeal Court dismissed these claims outright. The Appeal Court on 'page 21 states:
"The idea that the settlement is any the less just, honourable and durable should Maori quota be reduced, is unpersuasive".

And on page 20, the Appeal Court states:
"In our judgment the implication sought by the Maori appellants cannot be made. The evidence is that the Maori negotiators studied the QMS very carefully before deciding to settle their claims in return for quota. The capacity for a reduction has always been inherent in the quota system. No doubt no one anticipated a reduction of the present size, but under the settlement Maori accepted quota with its capacity to go down without compensation and up without cost."

The second point is that Maori did not receive a lot of snapper or inshore quota during the settlement. Most of this was in cash, which they have subsequently decided to spend or invest at their discretion - that is life. Certainly, no quota has been given to Maori for kahawai and kingfish as these are not quota species.

What about Maori non-commercial fishing?
The final point, and this is critical, is that the Ministry's focus is on satisfying Maori commercial fishing aspiration,. Maori commercial aspirations have been reasonably well sated - 20% quota, and $150 million in cash, plus other goodies.

But, the Ministry has conveniently forgotten that the other part of the settlement was to provide for Maori non-commercial aspirations. The Ministry has dismally failed at providing for Maori non-commercial fishing, except for the well-organised Ngai Tahu in the South Island.

The 1999 Maori customary fishing regulations for the North Island have not and will not work. No Maori would want to pick up this tool to work with because the tool is blunt and there is a good chance that he could injure himself. There are two problems. First, their internal dispute resolution procedure for which there is no arbitrator, and then second the incredibly cumbersome process they will have to go through to establish a mataitai.

The Ministry's first attempt -- the 1989 taiapure legislation, at helping Maori customary fishers was even more unworkable.

A suspicious man would say, 'fit was as though the Ministry of "Commercial" Fisheries did not want to help Maori non-commercial fishing".

As we saw with the eastern Bay of Plenty trawling business, probably more than 95% time Maori non-commercial desires will be the same as those of most recreational fishing people. There is a partnership between Maori non-commercial fishers and recreational fishing.

There is no doubt that most ordinary Maori non-commercial and customary fishers keenly support our views. There may be a few Maori academics and Maori commercial quota brokers who may have a different view, but we believe they will be in conflict with Maori at the grass roots level.

We, and I now think most of NZ society, accepts that Maori customary fishers should hold some sort of priority over general public recreational fishing. But, it should not be a "blank cheque". Just the same as we should not have a "blank cheque" priority over commercial fishing.

The Minister thanked Paul and agreed that there were cogent arguments in our position and asked for a copy of option4's letter and supporting documentation. (This will be sent on Monday, March 5, along with a letter of thanks for the meeting)

The Minister then said that he had been talking about process while option4 was focused on outcome. Mr. Hodgson then asked how he could include option4 in the process to reach a satisfactory outcome.

Paul Barnes explained his previous experiences with failed attempts at co-operative management through several strategic planning groups. Paul also explained briefly the 4 principles of option4 and suggested means of giving them management effect.

Pete Hodgson said he was much more interested in where to from here.

Paul Barnes stated that option4 was reluctant to try to deal with issues of defining the right, determining how that right should be managed and also how the management of that right would be funded simultaneously. The danger is that we may get a poor right with an expensive management regime that we would be asked to pay for or undertake without remuneration. This is the same situation we have now. Our current rights and the Ministry's interpretation of these rights makes it almost impossible to have meaningful input into the process. If this does not change we are unlikely to have recreational fishers involved in management.

Kim Walshe added that option4 is not adversarial but had acted very responsibly throughout the process. He also said that option4 does want consultation and will need Ministry co-operation in order to work through the issues. Kim gave the example that the Soundings process was held behind closed doors for 2 years without any outside input and that this process could have been done in a better, more transparent way. Kim added that option4 is strong on its 4 principles.

Bill Ross concurred that as President of the Bay of Islands Swordfish Club, and involved in the Big Game Fishing Council, he knew nothing about the Soundings process and the N.Z. Recreational Fishing Councils input into that process. Bill stated that he found this lack of information and balance to be intolerable.

Kim Walshe reiterated that option4 is interested in outcomes and is focused on the rights of recreational fishers, the right must be defined first and then focus on the tools to manage that right.

Bill Ross said that the current Minister was the most approachable Fisheries Minister in a long time and believed that option4 could work with him. He asked the Minister, "what role do you see us in and where did the N.Z.R.F.C. get its mandate from?"

Bill Cooke asked the Minister's perception of the 70 thousand in favour of the option4 submission.

"The Minister said he could not explain the level of the public response to option4 but he thought it was in large part a response to option4's presentation and communication of the issues rather than the Soundings options themselves"

Scott Macindoe disagreed and stated that in fact many did have a good grasp of the issues and all options had been presented on both the option4 web site and in the option4 submission booklets.

Paul Barnes added that he had travelled over 10,000 kilometres to attend as many public meetings as possible to ensure the debate was balanced with all view points presented.

Bill Ross stated that "option4 needed a simple approach to get its campaign underway because of the short public consultation timeframe and the fact that the process had been behind closed doors for 2 years before anyone really knew anything about it. After all, there was only 10,000 Soundings documents printed. The majority of people expected it to be kept simple, option4 did this for them. I personally collected many submissions and I know that I made sure they knew what they were signing and had read summaries of Options 1, 2 and 3 as well as the option4 submission. I believe most people who submitted in favour of option4 knew exactly what they were doing."

The Minister described his involvement in the Soundings process beginning just prior to release of the Soundings document. He had to make a decision as to whether to change some of the content of the document or not and decided to leave it how it was. He had no part in the development of the document and when he released it he spoke about raising issues that were not Government policy. When the Government received complaints about the lack of advertising of public meetings, I arranged for further public meetings to be held. Mr. Hodgson said that he had not really been engaged in the process until now.

Bill Cooke mentioned that he travelled down from Cape Kerikeri for the day just to attend this meeting. Bill said that in the Kerikeri community 99% of fishing is for food, not recreational and suggested that in low income households that in fact this is the norm. We cannot ignore the food gathering aspect of public harvest, it is not just recreational fishing that is being debated.

Scott Macindoe added that this is a flaw in the perception and reiterated that it is all types of seafood harvest by the public that is being discussed, he backed this with the demographics and comments received by those members of the public who elected to submit on line with comments added.

Paul Barnes said we are not just discussing recreational fishing, we are also discussing the right of the public to harvest seafood. Paul added that he was unaware of any sports fishery for pipis or flounder for example. Paul also said that he felt it was essential that option4 is involved in the process.

As time was becoming short, the Minister expressed the need for another face to face with option4 in the next few weeks although his diary is very restrictive. Mr. Hodgson is determined to sort out a process and proposed several ways of achieving this. He also added that he could not go much further without involving option4.

In response to a question from Bill Cooke, the Minister responded that his objective was to protect the recreational fishing right, whatever that is, and not to do so at the expense of other users in the fishery. "I will do my best and am not in favour of one or other group."

Geoff Green asked the Minister how option4 could get involved in the Ministers process?

The Minister could not answer because the process has yet to be established


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