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Fisheries compliance staff up 60% under Labour

Fisheries compliance staff up 60% under Labour

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has labelled as ridiculous claims by National that Fisheries staff numbers have been "gutted" under Labour.

Mr Benson-Pope says Ministry of Fisheries compliance staff numbers (which do not include Honorary Fisheries Officers) have increased by 60 per cent under Labour increasing from 124 in 1999/2000 to around 203 in the 2005/2006 year.

This includes an additional 18 staff announced in Budget 2005 to form a Special Tactics team for covert poaching and black-market operations.

Mr Benson-Pope says spending on fisheries enforcement has increased by 72 per cent in the same period. In 2005/2006 the government will spend $26million on fisheries enforcement, compared with $16.5million in 1999/2000.

"National's fisheries spokesman Phil Heatley is also completely wrong to suggest that prosecutions most often fail," said Mr Benson-Pope. "For the year up to 31 May 2005 the success rate of fisheries prosecutions was 92 per cent – 93 per cent for those prosecuted under the Fisheries Act and 90.5 per cent for those prosecuted under regulations."

Mr Benson-Pope confirmed that as a result of a 2003 review of the health and safety of Honorary Fisheries Officers a new approach was introduced, with Honorary Officers now working in pairs for their protection. Since adopting this approach there has not been a single recorded attack on Honorary Fisheries Officers, while in the four years before that, there were 14.

However, this review also changed Honorary Fisheries Officer's responsibilities, with Honorary Officers now committing to do a minimum of 100 hours duty each year.

Mr Benson-Pope says that in fact we now get more hours from our Honorary Fisheries Officers than we did prior to the review. Infringement notices confirm that there has been no reduction in the service offered, with 1492 notices issued last year compared with 1488 in 2002.

"On every issue raised by Mr Heatley in his release he is wrong and must be modelling himself on his leader Dr Brash, who is so often challenged by the facts," said Mr Benson-Pope. "I'm also very interested for Mr Heatley to tell us if he got permission from the budget slashes in his party before he made these wild promises to increase public spending?"

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