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PQ 12. Conservation, Minister—Statements

12. Conservation, Minister—Statements

[Sitting date: 29 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:11. Text is subject to correction.]

12. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour - Port Hills) to the Minister of Conservation : Does he stand by all his recent statements?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes , particularly my statement to the Fish and Game Council and to Federated Farmers that New Zealand will make more progress on improving water quality through collaboration than through conflict.

Hon Ruth Dyson : Why did he say that Fish and Game struggles with the concept of being a statutory body but behaves like a rabid NGO, and that it had to decide which it wanted to be or “the perks of being statutory body could go”, if not to threaten it with that loss?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I dispute those statements as to what was said at the meeting. I think it is a bit of a commentary of the season that exaggeration and overstatement just go with the time of the year. I think the notes that were taken by an independent Department of Conservation official are a pretty accurate record. Actually, David Haynes’ original comments that my contribution was very professional I thought were also quite accurate.

Hon Ruth Dyson : When he said, as recorded by his Department of Conservation official, that Fish and Game needed to work out what it wanted to be, a statutory body with legislation and a relationship with Government, or an NGO, did he threaten its statutory monopoly; if not, what does the further comment recorded by the Department of Conservation official—“Statutory monopoly! Big issue.”—mean in the notes?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I get lots of commentary from rural Fish and Game licence holders who object to having to pay compulsory fees to an organisation that then uses that money to criticise the very industries that sustain those rural communities. I did say to the Fish and Game Council that it needs to ensure that it is pro - freshwater quality and does not get in the space of being anti - rural industries like farming.

Hon Ruth Dyson : Why did he describe the Fish and Game irrigation billboard campaign “How much is too much?” as “a problem politically” and then say to Fish and Game that when you cause trouble, you burn good will, and how do those comments relate to its legal obligation to maintain, manage, and enhance fish stock?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I made some generic comments to Fish and Game that it needed to be more collaborative in improving fresh water. It was actually a member of the Fish and Game Council itself that raised criticisms of the billboard campaign. It was a member of the council who actually said they thought it was unwise and they voted against it, but the director of Fish and Game wanted to proceed. I actually do not think that billboard campaign did anything to advance the key issue of freshwater quality.

Rt Hon John Key : Speaking of billboards, is the Government running any kind of programme around recycling of billboards, because I can feel about 20,000 “Vote Positive” ones that need to be taken down—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, no—[Interruption] Order! Settle down. Settle down. There is no ministerial responsibility for the Minister of Conservation. [Interruption] Order!

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave for the Prime Minister to ask a similar question again so that he can make a fool of himself twice.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member knows he cannot seek leave for another member.

Hon Ruth Dyson : Has the Minister rung Mr Lindsay Lyons of the Fish and Game Council or six of the other participants who have been reported as being prepared to swear under oath the accuracy of Mr Haynes’ comments about his threats, and has he threatened them with legal action as well?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I spoke to Mr Lyons on the telephone last Friday. He apologised to me for what had occurred after the meeting, saying it was not intended as a public meeting and that the public comments were most unfortunate. I feel this is simply a matter of election season. It is a season of exaggeration and misquotation. I stand by the written records of the meeting that were taken at the time

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