My letter today to the minister of Conservation.30/6/21
The Acting Minister of Conservation
Dr Ayesha Verrall
NZ Fish and Game Review
I write to you as the leader of the NZ Outdoors Party, a registered political party which represents many users of the Great New Zealand outdoors.
I was also one of the twelve individuals who set up the Fish and Game Council in 1991, and was on the Interim NZ Fish and Game Council and the full council for a number of years. I was elected onto two regional councils for 15 years and was ministers appointee on the Taupo Fishery Advisory committee for over twenty years, and was one of those appointed to carry out the Taupo Fishery Review. Prior to Fish and Game I also had many years on the Acclimatisation Society Council and under the Wildlife department the Central North Island Conservancy council, so I have considerable relevant experience in these matters.
I note from OIA documents that you have approved and are progressing proposals to restructure Fish and Game.
Since becoming aware of the reviews proposals I have consulted widely with large numbers of anglers and hunters and clubs/groups and as a result I can advise there are thousands of licence holders who have not been consulted and who are becoming extremely concerned that the advice you are receiving is wrong. The regional councils who were consulted by the review committee are made up of elected representatives who we elected to manage the resource. They have no mandate to engage in a drastic restructure and have not sought the views of the license holders they represent. Because the submissions have not been released it is hard to understand just what position these regional councils took when consulted. There are approx 200,000 license holders (including lapsed holders) who have had no say in the review despite its fundamental impact on the future and future direction of Fish and Game.
There is a long tradition from going way back to 1860 in this organisation and many of the wetlands and rivers we value today were saved from the developers by members of the various acclimatisation societies. I personally recall the saving of the Kaituna Wetlands by working bees and sausage sizzles and Boggy Pond in the Wairarapa. One we couldn’t save was the te Hopia lagoon which is now a massive dairy farm spilling excess nitrates into lake Wairarapa. The only pure rivers left in NZ were saved by the Acclimatisation Societies who worked hard to get Water Conservation Orders on them.
Your proposals will signal an end to all of that and a transfer of these proud independent organisations to government control. The greatly reduced volunteer representation will result in decisions being dominated by your appointees. Five paid government appointees including the chairman’s casting vote will outvote the four volunteer angler elected Councillors. In addition to transferring day to day control at a governance level it will also result in a de facto transfer of private assets owned by Fish and Game to state control.
Minister this is an organisation that has successfully managed a nationwide recreational and tourist freshwater resources and protected the habitat for the people of New Zealand. This has been achieved at no cost to the taxpayer. The proposed review will disenfranchise the licence holders without any engagement with them. Many I have consulted with did not even know of the review.
Even worse, the chairperson who was elected to represent the licence holders has been engaged by DOC to manage the review and apparently to promote their desired outcome, creating a blatant conflict of interest.
The review has highlighted two recommendations that do need your attention. These are firstly, how the NZ Council is elected, and secondly how Councils manage conflicts of interest. These problems were both identified in 1992/93 but were never given any attention by successive Ministers leading to these current reactive recommendations that will in my opinion end Fish and Game. The current situation is a direct consequence of these long identified problems.
As Conservation Minister your obligation is to oversee good stewardship over fish and game birds in NZ. The current proposals are disproportionate to the problem and have been developed without proper stakeholder engagement. They would see an end to the era of “user says user pay” and may well alienate license holders.
I urge you to stop this review to allow time for affected anglers and hunters to engage to ensure a more democratic process.
President and co-leader
NZ Outdoors Party