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Freshwater Fisheries Bill a Travesty

Whitebaiters, farmers and rural communities are deeply suspicious that Eugenie Sage is trying to sneak her Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fisheries) Amendment Bill through Parliament without anyone noticing. Mike Thomas, a commercial whitebaiter and farmer from South Canterbury says rural water users and fishermen are all adversely affected by this Bill, yet nobody has been consulted. The Regulatory Impact Statement on the Bill, put out by the Department of Conservation and Treasury, was also “pathetic”.

“Nobody is going to accept the feeble excuse that consultation couldn’t happen because of the legislative timetable. Eugenie’s Bill doesn’t just affect whitebaiters. It carves deeply into New Zealand’s freshwater infrastructure, activities and cultural identity”, Mr Thomas said. “Eugenie seems to think that DoC needs more powers to build their empire and justify their existence. But it’s just another tier of useless bureaucracy in the freshwater sphere. It will massively increase DoC’s powers, making things more complex, unwieldy and expensive.”

Of particular concern to Mr Thomas was the potential effect of the Bill on farmers. It extends the Department of Conservation’s powers to make rules on any amount of land adjacent whitebait spawning areas. It allows the Department of Conservation to manage water intakes, discharges, flood control works and other freshwater infrastructure on the basis of native fish without any criteria or controls. Further, the Bill will seriously affect whitebaiters and others who harvest native fish through extending DoC’s powers of closure, method restrictions and permit requirements. Sports fishermen are also affected, as DoC’s native fish plans will now take precedence over sports fish plans.

“But worst of all is that iwi are exempt from all provisions of this Bill. I’ve got no problem with protection of Treaty Settlement rights, but this Bill goes further and creates two classes of whitebait fishermen: Iwi and non-iwi. How’s that going to work at the river mouth?”, Mr Thomas said. “This is classic Green-Party ideology and we are not taking it lying down. We’re preparing a sign to be placed on all whitebait stands and farm gates (and elsewhere) saying “Green Party voters not welcome”, with a picture of Eugenie on it so you can recognise what they look like”.


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