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Canterbury/West Coast Fisheries Undermanned

Canterbury/West Coast Fisheries Undermanned

“Fishery Officers in Canterbury and West Coast say they are grossly undermanned and need twice as many officers in the Region but not at the expense of other undermanned regions,” said Martin Cooney, organiser with the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) today. “The Ministry says it does not understand why Officers are going on strike. Currently Christchurch has six Fishery Officers and two Investigators and the Ministry intends to reduce front line enforcement here by one Officer and two Investigators (i.e. 3/8) from late October,” said Martin Cooney.

“The Christchurch office currently covers a huge area from north of Timaru to south of Kaikoura and the whole West Coast from Karamea to Jackson’s Bay,” said Martin Cooney. “Poaching is popular in Paua fisheries in Kaikoura (feeding into the Christchurch black market), many North Canterbury bays, Banks Peninsula, Sumner-Scarborough and the north and south West Coast.”

“Our Fishery Officers also cover New Zealand’s second biggest (behind Nelson) commercial fishing port - Port Lyttelton. There are over 600 fish dealers in Christchurch alone. Greymouth and Westport ports also have large quantities landed particularly during the Hoki and Tuna seasons. Officers have to check international fleets such as the Korean for Hake and Japanese for Tuna where misreporting allows overfishing.”

“Christchurch has over 50% of the South Island’s population meaning a big recreational fishing job (estimated 150,000 amateur fishers). It is also the hub of the black market trade in the South Island with much material exported out of Christchurch Airport. There are links to organised crime in Australia and Asia. Asian gangs have proliferated in the area recently and Officers estimate these gangs single handedly require a separate team as big as the current Christchurch one (i.e. six Officers),” said Martin Cooney.

“Because Ngai Tahu is based in Christchurch there is a need to resource customary fishing from here as well. The Ngai Tahu head office (TRONT) is based in Christchurch. With the Government cutting out Maori rights on the foreshore and seabed the risk to Officers and the need for more Officers to go round in pairs has increased (more in Norht Island). Significant aqua culture fish farming is underway on Banks Peninsula and North Canterbury.”

“The proposal will leave all of the Christchurch office’s current area and add in the Chatham Islands and Port Timaru but with only five Fishery Officers,” said Martin Cooney. “To cut staff by 37.5% can only leave the various stakeholders in the industry (Maori community, commercial fishers and quota holders, amateur fishers and fish farmers) short of service in a major way.”

“Officers report that the key to dealing with poaching and black market crime is to have a developed network of local informants. To remove the Christchurch based Investigators who cultivate and develop these up to Nelson seems to be asking for trouble, as these networks could not be cultivated from that distance,” said Martin Cooney. “Investigators and blueshirts (Fishery Officers) work in a team – to separate Investigators off to Nelson will take the pressure off the poachers and black marketers in Canterbury.”

“The Canterbury/West Coast example is just one example of how wrong the Ministry Proposal to cut front line staff is. There is a need for twice as many front line Fishery Officers across New Zealand (round 200 not the current 90). It is no use taking Officers from one Region and placing them in another as the Proposal suggests. All regions need an increase, certainly no cuts. The West Coast needs its own station – preferably two with two Fishery Officers each in Greymouth and Westport.”

“Fishery Officers describe the Proposal as demotivating and ‘madness’. They will be on strike on Friday over this issue and the fact that their Collective agreement is still unsettled since February 2003,” said Martin Cooney.

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