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MFish On Select Committee Scampi Inquiry Report

2 December 2003
News release

MINISTRY OF FISHERIES WELCOMES RELEASE OF SELECT COMMITTEE SCAMPI INQUIRY REPORT

The Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive, Warwick Tuck today welcomed the release of the report of the Primary Production Select Committee Inquiry into the management of the scampi fishery, with no evidence of corruption or impropriety in the Ministry and its staff and its predecessor, the former Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr Tuck said the corruption allegations, which were the basis for calling the Inquiry, were always unfounded and had been withdrawn at the outset of the Inquiry by those who had earlier made them.

"The allegations made through signed affidavits and through the news media that led to the Select Committee and State Services Commissioner's Inquiries were among the most serious ever made against the public service. The Ministry has consistently denied their validity and in fact there was never any evidence to support corruption," he said.

Mr Tuck said that many of the matters dealt with by the Select Committee originated from more than a decade ago during the administration of the former Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Matters such as inconsistent administration had been acknowledged by the former Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

"I am pleased that the Select Committee has recommended that scampi be introduced into the quota management system as at 1 October 2004 using catch history as the basis of allocation.

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"I am however concerned about issues raised by the Committee regarding our processes. These are matters I will be addressing in the near future".

Returning to the original allegations that sparked the Inquiry, Mr Tuck said the integrity of the public sector was critical to good administration, and he had welcomed the two Inquiries on this basis.

The allegations contended that the former department and some of its officials had favoured one fisher, Simunovich Fisheries Ltd, to unfairly establish a dominant catch record for scampi over the crucial catch history years of 1990 to 1992. They also contended that a former Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries official, Mr Nalder, was improperly thwarted in his investigations into Simunovich Fisheries Ltd.

"It was widely alleged Mr Nalder was paid up to $1 million to leave the former department. The words "hush money" were also used. In fact, Mr Nalder left MAF negotiating "enhanced early retirement", receiving $67,646.81 in recognition of 26 years of public service, including his time in the Police, $13,100 for "humiliation and distress" and up to $5,000 for legal costs." These amounts were part of a lawful "full and final" settlement negotiated by Mr Nalder's barrister.

"I advised the Select Committee that there was no evidence that Mr Nalder was prevented from carrying out any investigation into Simunovich Fisheries Ltd or any other fisher. I also advised the Committee that Mr Nalder's retirement from MAF in 1994 was unrelated to any scampi investigation that he was involved in. I repeat again that there was no corruption," Mr Tuck said.

Mr Tuck said the Ministry of Fisheries stood by its evidence to the Select Committee that there were good reasons for it not proceeding with compliance initiatives relating to Simunovich Fisheries Ltd. These decisions were rational and appropriate and an operational reality for a department that cannot commit unlimited resources to all incidents of alleged offending. The Committee had seen no evidence to indicate that any of the four investigations were stopped because of the unwillingness of the Ministry to investigate matters relating to Simunovich Fisheries.

"Professional standards in enforcement of fishing rules are crucially important to the Ministry. Fisheries compliance is highly effective in New Zealand and the public and the fisheries sector should be in no doubt about that".

Mr Tuck said he was particularly pleased for the two senior Ministry managers Stan Crothers and Dave Wood, who had been specifically named by those making the allegations. "The Select Committee Inquiry has conclusively shown there was no evidence of any wrong doing by my two senior managers. Their personal honesty and integrity has been confirmed," Mr Tuck said.

He added that the Inquiry had put enormous pressure on a number of staff and their families and in particular Stan Crothers and Dave Wood, as well as on the wider Ministry. "The Select Committee report will go some way to addressing the suffering these highly professional and honest public servants have endured. I advised the Select Committee of my full confidence in my two senior managers and in their personal integrity. I do so again today," said Mr Tuck.

"The non-substantiated claims of corruption have cost the Ministry of Fisheries $4.3 million to the end of October in assisting the two Inquiries. In addition, there have been substantial opportunity costs for fisheries management," he said.

Turning to the Committee's other recommendations, Mr Tuck said that the Ministry would need to consider these and to then provide advice on them to the Minister of Fisheries as appropriate.

"The Committee's report has now cleared the way for scampi to be introduced into New Zealand's highly successful Quota Management System. The QMS is the management system for New Zealand's fisheries with more than 60XX species introduced since 1986," said Mr Tuck.

"Our fisheries management is recognised globally as the leading model for the sustainable use of fisheries while providing for cultural, recreational and economic needs. Fisheries is New Zealand's fourth largest export sector behind meat, dairy and forestry products and employs 26,000 people directly and indirectly throughout New Zealand. The sector makes a very important contribution to the national and to regional economies, with New Zealand being one of the few countries in the world to operate a sustainable fishery.

"The Government has demonstrated confidence in the Ministry by providing an additional $15.5 million over three years in this year's budget, including $2.2 million to complete the introduction of new species into the QMS by October 2004, and increasing the Ministry's focus on environmental matters."

Now that the Select Committee Inquiry has reported, the Ministry is looking forward to the report of the State Services Commissioner's Inquiry which is expected in early 2004," Mr Tuck concluded.

Mr Tuck has been Chief Executive of the Ministry since 1995 and was re-appointed for an extended one-year term earlier in the year.

ENDS


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