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Government Takeover Of Fish And Game Will Be Hotly Challenged By 100,000 License Holders

The NZ Outdoors Party is very concerned by the newly released recommendations of the Fish and Game review two person panel set up by Eugenie Sage when she was Conservation Minister.

“They need full, open and proper debate and should not be undemocratically bull-dozed through,” says NZ Outdoors Party President Alan Simmons. “I am alarmed at the cavalier dictatorial approach of the current Fish and Game chair Rainsford (Ray) Grubb who was quoted on Radio NZ as saying national fish and game council would begin voluntarily enacting the recommendations before the 150,000 plus fish and game public have time to consider the consequences of the recommendations".

Fish and Game is well known to the NZ Outdoors Party President, Alan Simmons who was one of the 12 foundation Councillors of Fish and Game setting up the organization on behalf of the minister in 1989, and went on to become an elected NZ Councillor for 4 years and then sat the Eastern Region council for 11 years. 

"There has always been a difficult relationship between Fish and Game and the government "says Alan Simmons. " The Department of Conservation who are legislatively responsible for Fish and Game concentrate on managing native species and seem to have lost their resolve to advocate for freshwater. DOC with an anti-introduced species phobia, consider trout, salmon and game birds as intruders and conflict will always be a problem.”

Underlying any Fish and Game internal administration and management has been the vexed question of centralisation. Even in the early 1990s, soon after fish and game councils were introduced it soon became obvious that a problem would always exist between the NZ Council whose role was to co ordinate the 12 regional councils and the regional councils whose role was to manage the resources, he says.

One of the recommendations is that the NZ Councillors needed to be elected as independent board members as it should have been from the beginning but the legislation made them an appointee of the region resulting in regional control over the NZ Council.

“But that’s over to Fish and Game to remedy and does not justify a state trespassing and takeover as the review seems to make a push for,” he says.

"The reports proposal to reduce the regions from 12 to 6 and sharing expertise between regions is a good one" Alan Simmons said "but the proposal to reduce the number of elected Councillors from 12 to 4 with another 4 to be appointed by the minister can only be seen as an audacious and arrogant takeover of this user-say, user- pay organization by this government."

Fish and Game has a long historic tradition of managing game birds and freshwater fishing since the introduction of fish and birds to NZ in the 1800's via the European settler formed Acclimatisation Societies. Fish and Game had been at times strong advocates for environment issues most notably with Water Conservation order protections for the public’s rivers in the face of government exploitation.

"Many of the environmental wins we currently have now were hard fought for by the old Acclimatisation societies and as an example the current protection and purity of many river headwaters came about as a result of river conservation orders hard fought for and funded by the trout and salmon fishing public over the past years. “

Most of the wetlands still intact were either purchased or saved by hunters. Most of these would not exist today such as the Kaituna wetland purchased by fund raising sausage sizzles and generous donations by the Tauranga Acclimatisation Society.

“I was on the Acclimatization Society council in the 1970's and recall vividly the hard fought campaigns to save what are now treasured places,’ he says..

One of the legislative roles of Fish and Game has been advocacy around clean water and this has consumed a lot of anglers funds without any input from Government who abdicated their role in "clean water” while allowing Federated farmers to engage in a concerted war on Fish And Game because they did not like Fish and Game's advocacy on dirty dairying. This extensive prejudiced criticism by Federated Farmers to the review panel helped convince the minister to holding the review while Fish and Game were really carrying out its responsibilities as required of them under the Conservation act.

He says there are deep concerns around government appointees.

“Will they be mere puppets for the government of the day bearing in mind environmental threats to wetlands and waterways invariably come from government? Also of concern is the requirement under the conservation act that Fish and Game Councillors cannot be paid for their time and work thus begging the question that if government appointees were assigned to councils would they be paid and not the other four Councillors? “

Alan Simmons says if everyone was to be paid then the cost of fishing and hunting licenses would have to double and become unaffordable to lower income New Zealanders, thus destroying the egalitarian tradition of fishing and hunting sports being available to all.

"Anglers and hunters need to stand up and decide as to whether they accept the review report’s recommendations effectively for a government takeover or fight off yet another government attempt and there have been many over the years. 

The New Zealand Outdoors Party will not be a party to the appointment of government stooges to the Fish and Game councils when the whole organisation is funded entirely by license holders' money. It was set up as a "user pays-user says" organisation and so it should continue,” he says.

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