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Customary fish take ‘unknown’

Phil Heatley MP
National Party Fisheries Spokesman

15 November 2006

Customary fish take ‘unknown’

National Party Fisheries spokesman Phil Heatley says Labour is exercising a flagrant double standard in the way it tracks and enforces the fish takes from our coastal waters.

“If a commercial fisherman didn’t report his take he’d be for the high jump. So why is it that some Maori iwi and hapu are being treated differently?”

Mr Heatley is referring to an Ombudsman-enforced Official Information Act request, which shows that since late 2004, only three groups of 16 have fulfilled all their legal obligations to file quarterly catch reports. There are six groups which have returned no paperwork at all.

“The Fisheries Ministry is turning a blind eye, and officials have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Ironically, some of the worst offenders are in Parekura Horomia’s patch.”

Mr Heatley says the situation is so critical that in its Annual Report, the Fisheries Ministry has been unable to accurately predict how many fish will be taken by Maori customary fishers, it says the catch quantity is ‘unknown’.

“If Labour was really serious about managing a sustainable fishing policy, the Minister would be making sure all the important information was being collected. This utter disregard for enforcement makes a mockery of Labour’s 2004 pledge to get tough with non-compliance.”

Mr Heatley also notes that the number of Regulation 27 customary fishing inspections done by fisheries officers is down from 267 in 2004 to just 81 in 2005. And compliance rates have actually fallen from 93% to 84%.

“It’s getting worse, not better, and Labour’s getting slacker, not tougher,” says Mr Heatley.

In answers to questions the Fisheries Minister’s office has told reporters it is taking a partnership approach, rather than an enforcement approach to customary fisheries regulations.

“If that’s not a race-based double standard, I don’t know what is.”

Mr Heatley has also released papers which show the Office of the Ombudsmen was forced to intervene and order the Fisheries Ministry to release documents revealing the “drastically disappointing” results.

“All New Zealanders have an interest in protecting our coastal fishery for future generations. We need action, not more talk from Labour.”

ENDS

Attached: Official Information Act Response, news clippings – 12 pages.
Heatley_Fisheries_OIA.pdf

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