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Ministers Response Nov 2000

Hodgson's First Response to option4

Minister of Fisheries

23 November 2000


Office of Hon Pete Hodgson
MP for Dunedin North
Minister of Energy
Minister of Forestry
Minister for Small Business
Associate Minister for Economic Development
Associate Minister for Industry
& Regional Development

Minister of Fisheries
Minister of Research, Science &Technology
Minister for Crown Research Institutes
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Minister Responsible for Timberlands
West Coast Ltd

23 NOV 2000

Dear Mr Barnes
Thank you for your letters of 20 and 21 October 2000 regarding the Soundings recreational consultation process. I appreciate the background you provided on the option4 group, and can see the real commitment your group has to recreational fishing. I hope to be able to take up your offer to meet in Auckland sometime in the New Year.

Your letters raise two broad issues, namely the status of the 1989 recreational fishing policy, and what happens after submissions close. I will deal with each of these in turn.

The 1989 Recreational Fishing Policy
There is some confusion about the 1989 fishing policy and I welcome the opportunity to provide some clarification. The previous Labour Government's fisheries Minister approved the policy. As Cabinet did not consider it, the policy does not have the status of a Labour government policy.

A number of significant changes have occurred in fisheries management since 1989, in particular, the 1990 shift to proportional quota for the commercial sector, the 1992 commercial fisheries settlement with Maori, and the elimination of fisheries management plans from the legislation. All of these were relevant to Parliament's consideration of the Fisheries Act 1996. For example, during the Select Committee's consideration of section 21 (matters to be taken into account in setting or varying any total allowable commercial catch) of the Fisheries Act 1996, recreational fishing groups made strong requests for priority over commercial. Parliament, with bipartisan support, decided not to provide such a priority. However, section 311 and the disputes procedure were included in the legislation in an attempt to improve recreational fishers' access to in-shore areas.

The situation is that neither recreational nor commercial have priority over one another. Instead the Minister of Fisheries decides what shares each sector should have in a given fishstock, taking into account the purpose and principles of the Act and other factors relevant to the individual situation. .

The issue we must now address is the best way to move forward from where we are now. I cannot emphasise enough the opportunity that the Soundings process provides for us to address some fundamental issues about the future quality of recreational fishing.

In terms of share of the catch, Soundings raises the issue of priority over commercial, as well as some form of proportional share arrangement (not necessarily based on the current share). As you recognise though there are some constraints that need to be worked through carefully, like the need to meet the 1992 Deed of Settlement (Sealords deal). Let me explain more fully because it is important.

Over half of quota is owned by Maori. Much of this quota was provided to Maori as part of the Sealords deal, which recognised and settled Maori's rights stemming from the Treaty of Waitangi. If the Government was to attempt to unilaterally introduce a blanket priority for recreational over commercial this would diminish the value of the settlement to Maori, and the Government would be facing new grievances from Maori. Proposed changes to recreational fishing would be going nowhere fast.

However, I recognise the value of a fish caught by a recreational fisher may in some cases far outweigh the value of the same fish caught by a commercial fisher. A kahawai caught by an overseas visitor, cooked or smoked by the host, may be worth many times more to the economy that one caught commercially and sold in the market.

So the challenge that all of us with an interest in recreational fishing management, including customary, commercial and environmental interests as well as the multitude of recreational fishers we have, is a big one. We need to talk through the issues in a careful considered way so that we can improve the quality of recreational fishing without creating new grievances. It won't be easy, and it will take time, but it is vital that we address the issues up front in order to put recreational fishing on the firm footing it requires.

Process after submissions close
The material in Soundings covers the key points. Submissions will be summarised, and by 31 March 2001 the Ministry of Fisheries is required to report back to Cabinet. While I cannot anticipate what Cabinet will decide, if change is required following careful consideration of the submissions, there may be a further round of consultation on a specific proposal before looking at the need for any legislative change. Whatever happens will take some time, and there will be further opportunities for input and dissemination of information about the proposals at a later stage.

You may be aware that I have agreed to extend the deadline for submissions to 20 December 2000. I hope that this will be long enough for you and other affiliated clubs and associations to determine their collective positions. The deadline cannot be further extended without putting the timetable for later work at some risk.

I can assure you the government is committed to an open transparent process. All those who make a submission will receive a copy of the summary of submissions. The Ministry of Fisheries intends to contract this work out to an independent party. Each submission will be considered on its own merits. While the number of people supporting a particular view is important, the Government will be particularly interested in well thought out ideas about the best way to move forward.

Yours sincerely

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Fisheries


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