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Gross Incompetence In Fisheries, Heads Should Roll

16 October 2001

Gross Incompetence In Fisheries, Heads Need To Roll-- Peters

New Zealand First Leader, Rt Hon Winston Peters is calling for the dismissal of the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Fisheries after a case in the Court of Appeal found that both the Ministry and its Chief Executive were guilty of gross incompetence; faulty allocation of scampi quota; wanton disregard for due process; and unlawful treatment of fishers. The actions of the Ministry have seriously damaged some fishing firms and have meant that some fishers were not allowed to fish.

In the damning judgment, the Ministry were criticised for effectively giving one set of fishers open access to fisheries, while blocking off other fishers through a series of sheer incompetent decisions and bureaucratic bungling. The result is that some fishers who were unfairly blocked off from the lucrative scampi catch had to sue the Ministry.

“A sad consequence of this gross bureaucratic bungling has been to throw fishing company against fishing compnay in expensive and time consunming litigation. In an industry where all fishers depend on each other facing perils of the sea, it is unfortunate that this comradeship must now be under strain,” commented Mr Peters.

“The handling of the case by the Ministry has been appalling. They have made mistake upon mistake and have then refused to see reason -- this is clearly unacceptable. I call on the Minister of Fisheries to invoke an immediate enquiry into the manner in which the Ministry is carrying out its duties and in particular the suitability of the CEO Warwick Tuck to continue his role.

“The judgment singles out mismanagement by the Ministry and the Fisheries Chief Executive. The judgment highlights a culture of incompetence and unprofessional behaviour.

The Court found that the Ministry was guilty of neglecting to adhere to due process, not treating all fishers reasonably and fairly, and thereby contravening their own regulations. The judgment went on to say that:
“Policies have been announced but have been revoked or then changed without due consultation or notice; other policies have been applied inconsistently as between competing fishers; advice to fishers has not been given even-handedly and the treatment of fishers has been unequal; assurances have been misleading; different systems have been operated in different regional offices; needless mistakes have been made in processing and granting fishing permits; and delays, at times inordinate and particular to a region or fisher, have occurred”

On the question of re-allocation, Mr Peters said he considered it entirely inapprpriate for the ministry , having been condemned as it has, to have any role in re-allocation. “I call upon the Minister to appoint a former High Court Judge to oversee the division of the scampi ICE.

“The case has been full of almost comical errors of judgment by the Ministry. They have made mistake after mistake and have not accepted liability for any of their errors. This body has the power to make or break fishers. If the police made the same errors in applying the law those responsible would have been fired long ago.

“The chronology of incompetence happened as follows: first they wrongly denied some fishers access to the scampi catch, while giving others access without due process. Then they based their catch limits on the amount of fish caught by the depleted fishing fleet—effectively blocking the industry to competition; then they argued that they were not even under obligation to act fairly to the very people they are supposed to govern. This is clearly an unacceptable situation and one which cannot be remedied under the present Chief Executive,” concluded Mr Peters.

ENDS

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