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Tourism Award winner: fish legislation will destroy business

NZ Tourism Awards winner: Freshwater fish legislation will destroy my business

The owner of a luxury fishing lodge recently described by NZ Tourism Awards judges as “a role model for tourism businesses everywhere,” says his business will be “annihilated” if the Green Party’s Freshwater Fish Amendment Bill passes in its current form.

Since 2005, Felix Borenstein’s Owen River Lodge near Murchsion has catered to a high-end, international market. The lodge was recently recognised with the tourism industry’s 2018 Westpac Business Excellence Award. However, Mr Borenstein says proposed Department of Conservation management of all freshwater fish, iwi exemptions around the sale and transfer of game fish, and restricted access to parts of the fishery put all of that under threat.

“Fifteen years to build and it all hangs on the stroke of a pen,” he says. “But it’s not just me [affected]. The flow-on effects of this Bill will impact the entire industry.”

Mr Borenstein says wealthy American anglers spend over NZD $3,500 a day on average in New Zealand. “Some come just to my lodge, some will stay with me and then move on to another lodge, and others stay with me and then travel around the country taking part in non-fishing activities,” he says.

“But it’s the fishing that brings them here in the first place.”

Estimated to be worth $250m annually, the fly fishing industry has proven a boon to regional New Zealand, with lodges employing local guides and staff, and supporting their communities.

“This is exactly the kind of tourism that New Zealand wants,” says Mr Borenstein. “Affluent market, low environmental impact, and based away from tourism hot-spots.

“How more sustainable does it have to be?”

Mr Borenstein says he supports the aim of the Bill, which is to better protect indigenous fish species, but doesn’t see how setting anglers against conservationists is going to help.

“The biggest threat to indigenous fish species is poor water quality,” he says. “Indigenous fish need clean, clear water and so do trout.

“Why not work together to address the real problem instead of killing off an entire industry?”


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