Tragic Mismanagement of Kahawai

by Tony Orman

Being a regular fisherman over the last successive 25 years and earlier for several years in the 1970s for kahawai in Marlborough’s Wairau River estuary and Diversion mouth, this summer has been the worst season ever.

The demise of kahawai around the northern end of the South Island is sadly very evident.
I can recall kahawai years ago in Marlborough’s Cloudy Bay and the Marlborough Sounds working in several shoals just offshore, easily identifiable by excited gulls overhead. To see the birds hovering above the feeding frenzy of fish today is a rarity. In the autumn in the 1970s, big kahawai shoals entered the Wairau River estuary. Those autumn ‘runs’ have gone.
Kahawai have been labelled “the family fish” because everyone from nine years of age to ninety used to be able to catch a kahawai or several at the river mouth. Kahawai often formed the basis for a family meal in the evening. As a fish to dine on, they are very underrated but appreciated by those who know them.
The cause of the drastic decline in kahawai numbers is not hard to pinpoint. Big commercial companies have wrecked the resource. Purse seiners surround the shoals offshore and scoop the fish up in their hundreds or thousands. The plundered kahawai are reportedly sent to Australia for crayfish pot bait. Also according to a scientist I spoke to as I wrote this column, over the years kahawai have been sent to Canada as pet food and ground up for fish meal and at one stage were coloured orange and marketed as cheap salmon. Overall in export terms, it is a very low value fish.
But its recreational value is high and that has a potentially very high value to the economy. Read on.
The ruthless greed of the big corporate fishers is to blame but also culpable are the Ministry bureaucrats and a succession of inept ministers of fisheries.
Kahawai are a very important part of the ecosystem. A shoal of feeding kahawai, benefits several other species in the food chain. Gulls feed on scraps of bait fish which kahawai prey on. Kingfish are likely to feast on the kahawai. Below the surface activity, species such as snapper, tarakhi and others dine on the sinking scraps. Kahawai are an integral part of the food chain.
Kahawai are arguably, the number one recreational species to New Zealanders - a “family recreational fish” where everyone can have a ball at a river mouth fishing.
They are arguably the most spectacular sports fish especially on light tackle.
I fish for them with fly fishing gear and they are superb sport. Overseas anglers especially saltwater fly fishers will travel the world to catch a sports fish. Bonefish for instance, draw US anglers to far flung places such as the Christmas Islands and the Indian Ocean’s Seychelles Islands.
Kahawai could be New Zealand’s bonefish in the eyes of those wealthy US anglers. They could earn millions of dollars as a sports “tourist” fish and as Kiwi’s recreational fish.
The kahawai is an excellent eating fish- an important aspect given the excessive price of sea fish in shops such as snapper at $40 -$45 a kg. The New Zealand family can enjoy a feed of sea fish by catching a kahawai.
In recent years it has become recognised that recreational fishing is a substantial and significant industry in New Zealand. In 2014 the New Zealand Marine Research Foundation decided there should be a better understanding of the economic contribution that fishing-related recreation made at a national and regional level. A project was initiated and experienced international researchers Southwick Associates were engaged.
The value begins with recreational fishers’ spending, which totals about $946 million each year. That’s eye-opening but it‘s not the whole equation. The survey found those dollars then circulate through the national economy supporting 8,100 jobs and stimulating $1.7 billion per annum in total economic activity.
Like other industries, the flow-on effect embraces firms who support fishers include retailers, boat builders, service stations, tackle manufacturers, suppliers, marinas, motels, restaurants, charters, media and more. They employ thousands of people who work hard to ensure the recreational fishing public can enjoy their day out on the water.
Unfortunately probably due to relentless pressure by corporate fishing companies on political parties and the ministry, government has favoured commercial interests.
Recreational fishing has been neglected. Bureaucrats too often have overlooked the significant contributions generated by marine recreational fishers and of the economic value of kahawai, with sound management.

Footnote: Tony Orman is a Marlborough recreational fisherman and author of outdoor books and life member of the Marlborough Recreational Fishers’ Association.

Environmental challenges facing NZ

By Graham Carter, President NZ Federation Freshwater Anglers

The bureaucrats are the “Big Environmental Challenge" facing New Zealand in 2018.
Water quality and availability, rapid urbanisation, and the impact of natural hazards and climate change are the top three planning issues affecting New Zealand in 2018 and beyond, according to the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI).
These challenges will be among those addressed at NZPI’s annual conference Breaking New Ground to be held in Tauranga from 21 to 23 March 2018. Agri-food disruption, housing supply, biodiversity offsetting, new technologies and reviewing the implications of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity are also on the agenda.
These issues have been happening for years and we don’t need a fancy conference wasting taxpayer’s money to identify what is needed.
Planning and resource management within New Zealand is out of control. The Resource Management Act spawned by Labour’s Geoffrey Palmer and then embraced and tinkered with by National’s Simon Upton (now the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) and Nick Smith has been an absolute failure for New Zealand except for lawyers who have profited greatly out of the confusion and the resulting court wrangles. Also benefitting have been bureaucrats within central government and local councils. Bureaucrats have a self-serving interest in keeping what should be simple matters protracted into time consuming extended processes in order to keep their jobs justified. The public end up footing the bill either through rising rates to pay bureaucrats salaries or if involved in resource consent hearings, paying expensive lawyer fees and escalating consent costs to councils.
What of the environment itself after the long drawn out processes?
Clearly the environment is not benefitting. Many rivers are seriously declining in quality of water and flows.
Intensive monocultures, be that cows, grapes or pine trees, proliferate. Urban sprawl spreads over quality agricultural soils. The inescapable conclusion is after almost thirty years of the RMA there has been no benefit except to lawyers, bureaucrats and consultants. Worse, self-funded NGO's (non-government organisations)are now often the only groups battling for environmental protections through the courts, often against Government Departments and Regional Councils.
Environment standards have alarmingly declined after three decades of the RMA and its parasitic attendants.
The role of planners and resource management specialists has to be questioned as the issues New Zealand faced thirty and forty years ago remain the same but much worse. Councils brimming with bureaucrats have increased fees and rules and little positive outcomes have been achieved.
The issues like water, climate change, unbridled population growth and rapid and expanding urbanisation are much more pronounced than a decade ago. Meanwhile bureaucrats hold meaningless conferences, devise new rules often impractical and ineffective while ignoring the key causes of environmental declines.
A prime example is the erosion of water quality and quantity and the public’s right of access to water resources.
New Zealand has been facing the challenge of weighing up the need for protecting the environmental quality of our water resource while also allowing for the use of water for economic, social and cultural reasons. Corporate power has deep influence. There is more than a sniff of suspicion that some bureaucrats will do backroom deals and whisper invitations to corporate companies - often foreign owned - to take water which belongs to everyone – and to export it overseas for their gain and none for NZ.
This year’s conference is destined to be another failed “talk-fest” as bureaucrats, consultants and lawyers debate the issues without actually taking responsibility for the mistakes they have made over past years.
There is a need for a complete cleanout of local and central government bureaucrats. Local government politicians have forgotten they are public servants elected by the people to serve the public interest. Councils are failing to recognize and take responsibility for failed sewerage systems, allowing environmental damage to continue and ignoring the pleas from residents on the many issues that will affect future generations.
Continued over-use of chemicals and poisons is destroying farm soils, wildlife and ecosystems. Urban and rural developments are allowed to seep effluent into waterways. Raw and treated sewerage continues to be discharged into waterways as “accidents" in times of above average rainfall.
The Predator-Free-2050 programme is a classic case of a ludicrous, unrealistic, unjustified piece of bureaucratic nonsense. It would never be achievable and besides many of the bureaucrats and politicians flag cheering on the 2050 dream will not be around at completion to answer for their abject failure and massive waste of public money.
Councils and the bureaucrats need to be made accountable as councils have failed the voting public. Most councils are mired in deep debt and cannot afford to upgrade failed infrastructure. At times elected councillors are stymied by bureaucratic CEOs and managers who are busy covering their butts and making nebulous excuses.
Another prime example of failure is the sorry state of rivers and waterways. The responsibility for failure sits on the shoulders of overpaid councils and recent inept central Government who have been captured by corporate interests such as dairying, forestry and others.
Most people know the problems and causes. More excuses, platitudes and rhetoric and dim-witted ideas are not needed.

Footnote: Graham Carter is an environmentalist of “the rational” kind and president of the trout and rivers advocacy, the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers

Trout Federation Urges Anglers "Get Involved In Fish and Game Elections"

A national rivers and trout and salmon fishing advocacy has urged anglers to get involved in this year’s elections for Fish and Game Councils.
Three-yearly Fish and Game Council elections are due this year to elect councillors for the 12 Fish and Game regions which help manage freshwater fisheries and game bird hunting.
Candidate nominations open on Saturday 11 August and close at the end of the month. Any full season licence-holder is eligible to stand for election.
The New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers president Graham Carter of Hamilton said it was vital in the face of threats to the public ownership of fish and game resources and environment issues that the trout and salmon fishing public took a greater interest and involvement in the running of fish and game councils.
“The Federation fully supports the democratic structure of Fish and Game Councils but over the past decade there has been a disappointing and strong trend to indifference by the licence holder public to participating in elections in terms of both voting and nominating candidates,” he said. “Apathy is one of the biggest threats.”
Graham Carter said while fish and game legislation fully intended to prohibit charging for fishing and shooting rights, loopholes in the law had been exploited by commercial interests. Issues causing concern were demands for water for irrigation, pollution, leaching of nitrates and siltation from clear felling logging operations, loss of traditional access from farmland sales to foreigners, 1080 poison and others.
“Fish and Game is the statutory management and advocacy for the licence holder public,” said Graham Carter. “Get in and make sure you qualify to vote from your local fish and game office and then vote. before that consider standing or nominate a likely candidate.”
In recent elections over the past decade some fish and game regions had received insufficient nominations to fill councillor seats.
“That’s an appalling situation. It;’s up to anglers to shrug off that indifference and give strength to fish and game councils in their battles for cleaner and restored rivers plus other matters of concern,” he said.

Contact: Graham Carter 021 026 00437

Is NZ’s Trout Fishing Heading for “Paradise Lost”

by Tony Orman

A noted American fly fisherman is warning New Zealand’s trout fishing is at a dangerously critical stage.
Howard West, just turned 71, spent a trout fishing holiday in New Zealand in the early 1980s.
“I was captivated by the abundant high quality trout water, the natural beauty and the friendly people,” he recalls. “It was a fly fisher's paradise.”
But that’s all changing and too fast for his liking. Fast forward from the 1980s to two years ago, Howard realised that he had been oblivious to the gradual decline in the fishery. He took a hard look behind the New Zealand marketing branding of clean, clear trout rivers and abundant fish and had eyes wide open.
“I was horrified to learn how deluded and blind I had been in not noticing the decline,” he says ruefully.
When not fly fishing, Howard spent over thirty years in consumer marketing for 3M, Oracle and for Medtronic, including fifteen years as Managing Director of Scientific Anglers when it was owned by 3M.
First inkling to alerting him to the looming crisis was his personal encounters with the destructive impact that the rapid expansion of the dairying industry was having on his favourite Southland streams which he had fished for decades. It was slow but insidious - like a cancer - but it dawned on Howard that each year, the streams progressively took longer to clear after mere minor storms. After all it was sighting and stalking trout that he revelled in.
“Wasting precious days waiting for the water to clear were very discouraging. But when I toted up year after year the longer periods I was waiting, I realised the symptoms of an ailing environment.”
Another retrograde change was that once open-banked streams like Southland’s Hamilton burn were becoming so overgrown with willows that wielding a fly rod was near impossible except on the bigger pools. Besides warning signs of e coli bacteria being erected on his favoured streams confirmed his fears, the water quality was spiralling downwards.
“Clearly I love to fish but not at the expense of my personal health,” he reflects. “After all I’m not simply walking around these streams in knee high rubber boots. I’m in dairy contaminated water up to my waist, where contact with it is on your hands and is unavoidable.”
Ten years ago Howard West reluctantly and sadly left his Southland streams behind and moved to another section of the South Island on the West Coast, where the streams did not colour up so much after minor rain.
For the first few years everything was fine in the new environment.
“Streams were rarely off-colour any freshers quickly cleared and good mayfly hatches made for top quality sight fishing in the gorgeous gravel streams,” he recalls.
Then things began to change for the worse. After the Southland ruination, Howard was more sensitive and alert to changes. His antennae were up and monitoring.
“I noticed the fly hatches grew weaker or disappeared altogether, the in-stream weed growth dramatically increased and the talk of the unknown toxic impact of 1080 poison and dirty-dairying impacts ramped up.”
Bewildered and saddened, Howard asked questions to himself. What’s happening? Where is the much vaunted green and pristine New Zealand of the 1980s? Are those days gone? As the 17th century John Milton poem says, is it “Paradise Lost”?
Howard set about analysing and delving deeper into the shadows behind the New Zealand tourist marketing curtain claiming to be “100% pure” and “clean and green.” to an avid fly fisherman, both slogans promise clean and pristine trout waters.
“I’m now finding out it goes much deeper than my personal trout fishing experiences and realisation of what’s happening to the health of rivers,” he says.
There are strong ethical challenges facing New Zealand. He cites 1080 poison and says New Zealand just the size of the state of Colorado, has over 90 percent of the world’s use of 1080 poison.
“It’s scary to learn what a nasty toxin 1080 is and what a huge threat it is ecologically and to the health of freshwater ecosystems and the rivers and trout I live.”
He shakes his head in disbelief at the failure of the New Zealand government to acknowledge the disaster that 1080 is. Howard is incredulous government can disregard the facts about 1080. He sees with horror the buildup of an “industry” a parasitic one involving scientists, contractors and a government-owned State Owned Enterprise distributing the poison. It can only be motivated by greed which puts personal gain ahead of the personal health of the people which politicians and public servants are charged with protecting.
“This may very well be my last trip to New Zealand,” he says quietly and then adds. “Perhaps I’ll give it one last shot next summer.”
Howard West’s first trip to NZ was in the early eighties and he has returned nearly two dozen times and will probably be back again next season but with fingers tightly crossed.
Howard retired at 50 so he could work less, earn more, and fish nearly all he wished and started a consulting business outside of fly fishing.
“Unusually effective consumer marketing was always at the core of my success. Now that trout are my consumers, I do my best to deliver what they want, but first they must remain safe and healthy.”
He laughs as he declares he’s not a “crank fisherman or eco-extremist.”
“I’m simply an increasingly concerned advocate for New Zealand being the healthiest paradise it can be instead of destroying itself,” he adds.
But he’s quick to emphasise that the country could be a paradise for New Zealanders.
“NZ is your paradise too but the difference for me is that I don’t have to live there, drink the poisoned water or eat the toxin contaminated food or hear the silent forests. My kids won’t be asking where the birds or insects have gone or why they can’t swim in the local streams or lakes anymore.”
Howard urges New Zealanders to stand up and be counted and shrug off apathy and indifference.
“Your kids say ask you or your neighbours kids will. What will they think when they learn that you are part of the reason why?”

Howard West has been lured by New Zealand trout since 1984

SHOT Urges Hunters to ‘Quiz and Vote’

30 July 2017

The Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust (SHOT) has urged the 100,000 plus game and bird hunters to vote for sensible management and laws in the forth-coming September 23 general election.  

“The party and candidates are beside the point,” says Laurie Collins convenor of SHOT. “What’s important is what the party and/or your electorate candidates stand for as far as deer and game bird management, the environment and firearm laws go.”

He urged hunters to at the very least vote and better still, get out to election meetings and quiz candidates or contact them individually.Laurie Collins said with each election, issues became more vital and hunting freedoms were threatened.

He cited a recent Parliamentary Select Committee that recommended changes to firearm laws that would have penalised the hunting public but failed to address illegal ownership of firearms by the criminal element. Only the intervention of the deputy prime minister Paula Bennett prevented many of the ill conceived changes being implemented.

“Therein lies the conundrum,” said Laurie Collins. “Paula Bennett who comes from an outdoors upbringing to her credit, stepped in and stopped the rot. But on the select committee were government MPs who backed stupid ideas.”

On that same select committee, NZ First members sensibly pulled out disgusted with the proposals which then let them speak out publicly, thus commendably alerting the hunting public.

Laurie Collins said other hunting issues had further aggravated the public’s hunting scene. He cited Wild Animal Control Operations with helicopter operators indiscriminately slaughtering deer.

“That’s not game management when any and every deer is shot. It shows cruelty in killing hinds with young fawns at foot, ignorance in shooting trophy stags and that DOC still has an anti-deer mentality in high quarters.”

Laurie Collins criticised the government formation of the Game Council which wedded by law to the Minister of Conservation became a tool for the department and was rendered a “toothless tiger” by its obligations to the Minister and DOC. DOC’s “Battle of the Birds” with extensive 1080 drops to rid NZ of predators was an impossible dream, a waste of public money and environmentally irresponsible as 1080 was an ecosystem poison killing insects, birds and other life.

Foreign purchases of high country had accelerated and locked gates resulted in most cases, after purchases. Government moves at the behest of Federated Farmers to make Canada geese pests by law were spiteful and stupid he said. Geese could have remained as game birds with farmers given the right in conjunction with Fish and Game to take any harvesting measures deemed appropriate.

“I just urge hunters to make sure they vote and vote after deep consideration. It’s the legacy you’re leaving for your children and grandchildren too.”

CORANZ Spells Out Outdoor Duties for Next Government

20 July 2017

The Council of OUTDOOR Recreation Associations has sent political parties and MPs a 17 point charter as to what is needed environmentally from a future government.
CORANZ Co-chairman Andi Cockroft said each election brought a deepening of the environmental crisis which impacted negatively on NZ’s outdoor recreation heritage and the country’s ‘clean and green’ claim.

“We’ve seen rivers once prized trout streams such as the Selwyn run dry and become a succession of stagnant isolated pools, nitrate levels are leaching into aquifers and rivers, ecosystem toxins are spread over public lands for bizarre mythical reasons, the much lauded sea fisheries quota system is a disaster with fish dumping exposed, high country lands are going to overseas buyers and access is being denied to Kiwis plus other degradation of the environment, its resources and outdoor recreation,” he said.
Government had gutted the RMA and diminished the public’s right to have a say in decision making. He gave the example of government’s state takeover of the ECan council in Canterbury and of 1080 decisions now handled solely by Minister for the Environment Nick Smith in Wellington.
“I regard those as illustrations of an arrogant, dictatorial government,” he said. “It’s performance assessment time on September 23."

Andi Cockroft said the biggest threat to stopping the rot was apathy amongst voters. Over a million New Zealanders have not registered or did not vote in recent elections he said.
"To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain,” said Andi Cockroft. “Just get out and vote.”
Andi Cockroft said apathy had always been a danger to getting the best government. He quoted Abraham Lincoln, famous USA president who said
“Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
The New Zealand environment was under threat and the country needed an administration with an eye to the future and a high respect for the environment. Among the CORANZ charter's 17 points was population management as a key. New Zealand needed to set a limit to its size.
“With 4.8 million people now and increasing, with environmental standards and quality of life being eroded what will 5 million, 6 million and 7 million people bring?”
The CORANZ charter also said a rethink was needed as to measurement of a country’s wealth.
“Do we measure it by the number of colour tv sets, motorcars and washing machines or do we measure it by abundance in the outdoors and clean flowing rivers and similar values?”
Consequently the CORANZ charter calls for replacing the money-based GDP with a GPI based on quality of life values. Some far-sighted economists advocated this need. Government needed to also.

Andi Cockroft said CORANZ represented a number of outdoor recreation groups from hunters to anglers, both salt and freshwater, to 4 WD enthusiasts and conservationists. CORANZ was keen to welcome new members.
“Any group interested should go to the website,” he said.
In the short term CORANZ’s message was not just to its members but the greater NZ outdoor recreation public. Over a million Kiwis enjoy the outdoors but they must shrug off that apathy and vote. Andi Cockroft likened it to a sleeping giant that needed awakening.
“If everyone of the million outdoors-mionded Kiwis voted after deep consideration, government would have to respect the public interest, the environment and recreation,” he said.