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Numbers of fisheries officers slashed

Numbers of fisheries officers slashed

National Party Fisheries spokesman Phil Heatley says that the Ministry of Fisheries decision to slash the number of honorary fisheries officers (HFOs) throughout New Zealand has contributed to the marked increase of closed beaches.

This follows revelations that 11 stretches of coastline are currently closed to shellfish collection compared to only four in 1999.

Replies from the Minister of Fisheries to Mr Heatley's written questions show a significantly reduced number of warrant-holding HFOs.

"The 2002 decision to slash the number of HFOs resulted in a drop from 219 to 109 officers active in the North Island, and a drop from 75 to the 40 officers active in the South Island today," says Mr Heatley.

"By reducing the number of eyes and ears on the ground, the Ministry has effectively opened up opportunities for people to plunder the coastline.

The Ministry of Fisheries has initiated a further a policy that HFOs work only in pairs for safety reasons. This follows requirements under the recent Health and Safety legislation.

"These decisions have not been thought through practically", says Mr Heatley.

"HFOs are employed to police isolated areas of coastline because paid staff are too costly. "Yet when you halve their numbers, then demand they work in pairs, you are effectively reducing the geography that fisheries officers can effectively police by 75%," says Mr Heatley

"Safety of the officers is important, but surely they are in the best position to decide if they need backup or support before approaching any given situation.

"Instead of stretching their numbers so thin, lets use common sense," says Mr Heatley.

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