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Speech: Luxton - Achieving Progress Together


"Achieving Progress Together"

NZ Recreational Fishing Council Conference Half Moon Bay Marina, Auckland 23 July 1999 (check against delivery)

Ladies and gentlemen, parliamentary colleagues, invited guests, delegates. It's a real pleasure to be here.

Before I begin I would like to mention the passing of John Hough. In his role as President of the Big Game Fishing Council, and personally, John was a man committed to recreational fishing. I always found his gentle approach positive, and I greatly valued his excellent advice. John was a real gentleman who got results and I know his wise counsel will be missed.

Today I want to talk about how the Ministry of Fisheries and stakeholder groups, including the Recreational Fishing Council, are achieving progress together.

Last year I challenged the Council to work with Government to better define recreational rights and determine how recreational fishing might be better managed. I am heartened to see that this year, your conference theme is "Property Rights".

Likewise I am very impressed by the efforts of the working group which was established, and the significant contribution that the RFC members have made on your behalf. These are reflected in the conference agenda.

Of course, there's fishing and there's politics, and sometimes there's tension between the two when decisions have to be made. But let's look at where we're at today.

New Zealand has a deserved reputation for being among the best countries in the world for recreational fishing. We need to protect and improve on that. Enjoying good quality recreational fishing is part of being a New Zealander.

By all accounts this has been a very good year for recreational fishing. With the possible exception of scallops in the wider Auckland area, you have enjoyed good fishing. Snapper fishing off the North East Coast of New Zealand, and big game fishing have had a better season over the last year.

Why is that? Of course there are the environmental factors. But the fact is, that the Government has taken hard decisions over the past 10 -15 years. While every decision is taken on its merits, the overriding principle is simply sustainable utilisation of New Zealand's fisheries resources.

For example, the introduction of the QMS in 1986 and the associated controls on the total take from fisheries. Since its introduction, New Zealand has been regarded as a world leader in effective commercial fisheries management. The Quota Management System has already resulted in one of the most healthy fisheries in the world, and we are continuing to build on this.

My Ministry's vision for achieving sustainable utilisation, includes maintaining a high quality recreational fishery for our country. We also want those who have an interest in the harvesting of fish, including yourselves as recreational fishers, to have real input into managing the resource.

To this end the Ministry has sought to work co-operatively with all stakeholders.

The issues are far from easy, but make no mistake - they are the real issues that go to the heart of recreational fishing, for current and future generations

I am also encouraged by the more co-operative working relationship between commercial and recreational stakeholders.

For example: * an initiative to form a joint committee with commercial fishers and Maori for the CRA 2 fishery. * the formation of a joint committee to consider fisheries management issues in the Tauranga harbour, and * the completion of 6 area management plans for the South Island Eel Fishery.

There will not always be agreement between all sectors. The recent Coromandel scallop dispute is a case in point. However I believe it is important to provide the right framework and incentives for stakeholders to work together. The current fisheries framework goes some way towards this but further development is required. That is one challenge for the rights working group.

This process isn't easy, but it does represent a real opportunity to protect and secure good quality recreational fishing for the future.

There are serious problems in the management of our recreational fishery, the major one being that your rights are not clearly defined.

Without clearly defined rights it is difficult to manage and improve recreational fishing. Obviously you want the ability to access your fair share of the total catch. Local depletion is a critical issue that needs to be addressed when defining the recreational right.

Recreational fishers have the local knowledge and understanding of local conditions. Indeed you have the incentive to protect your rights on a local basis. At the moment it is difficult for this local knowledge to be incorporated into Government's centralised decision making processes.

There are many options for improving the quality of recreational fishing. Clearly these options are of interest to a wide range of people. In many situations there is no one right answer. There will not always be agreement between sectors.

However it is important to provide the right framework and incentives for stakeholders to work together in a co-operative fashion. The current fisheries framework goes some way towards this, but further developments are required. That has been the challenge for the rights working group - to achieve long term durable outcomes that secure recreational fishing, not just for those people in this room today, but for generations to come.

An extensive consultation process has to be undertaken and the Government is committed to this process. The Ministry has reprioritised its budget to support the consultation and recreational reform process.

The process is now well underway. I am pleased to see that the main focus of your conference is to debate the possible options that have been identified by the working group.

I believe that it is important for you to keep an open mind when considering these options and to think of the long term solutions rather than the short term gains.

Following your deliberations and taking account of other stakeholders including customary Maori, environmentalists and industry, the Working Group will report back to me. A draft paper will then be prepared for Cabinet and public consultation will follow next year. We envisage the whole process will take several months.

Next year when I stand up here, I want to be able to report to you on the outcome of Cabinet decisions.

This is not about privatising the recreational fishery. What I believe in is democratising the fishery. The Government believes recreational fishers are the best people to manage their rights. Don't be hoodwinked by politicians who want to run your fisheries for you.

If Jeanette Fitzsimons and the Greens had their way, the Hauraki Gulf would be one giant untouchable aquarium and no one would be able to fish. Kelly Tarlton's underwater world eat your heart out.

If Jim Sutton had his way - and to be honest who knows which way that will be on the day - he would cave in to the sector that was first up best dressed.

Now Jim will argue he was misquoted and that the Herald got it all wrong at the Seafood Industry Conference, but I was there and I distinctly heard him say "where the recreational take is major, there needs to be a specific permitting system ... where there's more pressure, more onerous controls are needed."

If that's not an unequivocal statement I don't know what is. If that's not policy making on the hoof I don't know what is. Typical Labour, floundering over fish policy. One minute they're advocating greater controls on the recreational sector, the next moment he's doing a u-turn.

National is committed to balancing the needs of all stakeholders in order to maintain a high quality sustainable fishery. For recreational fishers this means our children and their children being able to drop a line off the end of a wharf and catch a decent fish for years to come.

Finally I would like to pay tribute to Bob Burstall as he stands down as your President. It would be fair to say that I have enjoyed a robust but productive relationship with Bob and the Council. We have had our differences, and debated strongly, but that is part and parcel of the consultative approach we endorse.

Thank you Bob for your contribution. I look forward to building on what has been achieved and working with the Council and your new President in the same productive way.

I wish you the very best in these important deliberations and I am sure, as I said at the beginning of my speech "together we can achieve progress."


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