Access- “Three Little Words” Languish Due to Inertia

by Tony Orman

If you go trout fishing, a landowner is not permitted by law, to charge you a fee to go fishing. 
It’s all to do with “The Section 23 principle,” as I term it.
Section 23 is a part of the Wildlife Act prohibiting charging shooters for the right to hunt ducks, pheasants or quail.
Section 23 has its trout fishing counterpart in Section 26ZN Conservation Law Reform Act – no one, i.e landowner can charge a fee to go trout fishing apart from the usual annual licence fee paid to Fish and Game.
The wording of the act is very clear.
Subsection 1 of Section 23 of the Wildlife Act states that the sale of game and the sale of shooting rights is prohibited and  Subsection 2 says no person shall sell or let for fee or reward any right to hunt or kill game on any land or any water or any adjoining land.
Note on “any” land, which means anywhere in New Zealand.
The same prohibition of selling trout fishing rights exists in Section 26ZN of the Conservation Law Reform Act.
Those principles are dear to the egalitarian nature of New Zealand’s society. It embodies in law i.e. equal opportunity for all irrespective of personal wealth or ethnic background and in this case to shooting and fishing. 
In other words hunting and fishing are public sports. The fish and game are public resources by law.
The reason for banning fishing and hunting fees began in the middle of the 19th century, when New Zealand was settled by Europeans. They quite deliberately abandoned the UK feudal society, where fees are charged and access to the best trout or salmon fishing, costs “big” money.  
Only the wealthy “upper class” can afford the fees. The pioneers wanted a fair society in New Zealand, based on equal rights, where all sport – and including the best fishing and shooting – could be enjoyed by all.
There would be nothing of the UK situation where only the wealthy could afford the fees necessary to fish the spring creeks or the best trout or salmon rivers or to shoot pheasant or a red deer stag.
The principle is that anyone, regardless of race, income or class could enjoy outdoor sports such as fishing and hunting.
To reiterate, that principle is defined in fishing and hunting law where the sale of trout fishing and duck shooting rights is prohibited by law.
However in recent decades there has been an erosion of these freedoms  and what is in essence, the public nature or ownership of the outdoors. 
Self-interested entrepreneurs come in many forms. There have been the trout fishing guides who pay the landowner a sum of money for “exclusive access”. Indeed some web-sites on the internet have advertised “private” and/or “exclusive” water for trout fishing.
The reality is unless you pay the guiding sum, perhaps $1000 or more a day, you don’t get to fish those rivers. Those exploiters argue with glib tongues, “Oh it’s not the fishing we’re charging for but the access to it.”
It’s weasel wording that creates such an argument and a loophole in the law.

Some 50 or so years ago – yes about 50 years ago –  I wrote articles in the “NZ Outdoor” advocating closing this loophole by inserting three little words “or access thereto.” In other words a landowner should not be able to charge for the right to fish or  walking access to fishing.

In recent years there have been blatant challenges to current law that indeed very arguably, amount to erosion of the law.
Pheasant preserves
I refer to pheasant game preserves where a licence holder may pay towards $1000 a day and me in some cases, to shoot pheasants. Several have been set up. But the big question is, do game preserves contravene that Section 23 of the Wild Life Act? 
Obviously  an accurate legal opinion would be the answer and so logical. However the council of Fish and Game NZ voted against getting a legal opinion. Fish and Game NZ spokesmen publicly praised pheasant preserves.
Why  decline to do the sensible, logical thing?
Frankly I don’t know why they rejected the logical course. I was puzzled and dumbfounded!
Sir Geoffrey Palmer constitutional lawyer has in more recent times advised Fish and Game pheasant preserves are unlawful. He recommended adding those three little words “or access hereto” to close the loophole that exploiters’ weasel wording  dodged.
But hold on, it’s not just Fish and Game NZ’s stupidity. There is a watch dog in the Minister of Conservation and the Department of Conservation. Under the Conservation Law Reform Act which set up fish and game councils, the department vets regulation changes and the minister approves them.
That DoC watch dog system failed or ignored the contravention of Section 23 of the Wildlife Act.
The same moves are happening in trout fishing.
One report some years ago, from the Wellington Fish and Game Council “has identified large portions of two of the North Island’s most famous and productive trout fisheries-the Mohaka and Rangitikei rivers – as more than 50 percent privately captured or potentially so, said Dr Margaret Williams, Wellington Fish and Game councillor and Fish and Game NZ councillor.
“Additionally there are myriad other streams potentially captured and some presently captured.”
Margaret Williams cited other cases in the Central North Island and the “entire Taharua River within Poronui Station and significant portions of the Taruarau within Ngamatea Station (Inland Napier-Taihape road) are examples of this.”
Margaret Williams regarded Fish and Game as ”slow and reluctant to act upon—this pointed and accelerating threat to a treasured New Zealand tradition” of the free and unfettered right to go trout fishing.”
Margaret Williams concerns seemed to go nowhere.

NZ s European settlers ensured all trout fishing would be available to all and not a wealthy elite as it is in the UK

There’s a host of questions buzzing around.
After all are not Fish and Game by law, the legal guardians of the public nature of fishing and shooting? 
The answer is yes. So is the Department of Conservation as the statutory watch-dog.
How is it then that Fish and Game NZ at a meeting (August 21, 2020 )agreed to allow pheasant preserves and are caving in to trout farming?
My answer is sorry,  I don’t know! 
Indeed, have come to believe Fish and Game have become over the last two decades oblivious by either ignorance or design, to its obligations under the Act.
Now the Department of Conservation is meant to oversee shooting regulation changes. Surely they would have picked up the contravention of Section 23 of the Wildlife Act?
The answer is yes they should have. They failed.
Should Fish and Game NZ have allowed game preserves to come into being in the face of the law and a century of non-commercialised sport?
The answer is “No they should not have” but they seemingly did.
Well what’s going on? What’s the agenda?
Answer: I don’t know what’s going on because it’s all too often behind closed doors and discussed “in committee”. It shouldn’t have been in my opinion. After all any big company such as Fonterra, AMP, Brierley’s go back to shareholders and ask for the “okay” on any major change of policy. I believe Fish and Game NZ failed to consult their shareholders (shooting and fishing licence holders ) on a major, major change of policy.
Close Loophole
What about closing that loophole by adding three words “or access thereto” to prevent exploiters?
Well since my articles in the “NZ Outdoor” some 50 years ago, and decades later, Fish and Game NZ commissioned constitutional lawyer Sir Geoffrey Palmer to prepare the necessary amendment to the laws. That happened years ago but inexplicably it was left to gather dust.
Indeed that Palmer Amendment is the solution. 
Close the loophole and then it’s 100 percent clear cut to take a case against anyone preventing Joe or Josephine Angler being charged to go fishing – or to shoot a pheasant or duck.
In fact the issue is tied up directly with public access to the outdoors, for not only trout anglers but deerstalkers and trampers.
Fish and Game NZ, it seems, have thrown 100 years of public tradition out the window. In bizarre fashion by “okaying” game preserves they have arguably contravened the law, i.e.  Section 23 of the Wildlife Act.
However if game preserves and fishout pond proposals are an indication, the basic agenda is commercialisation, flying in the face of 100 years of public access and clear intent of law.
Well questions need to be asked and answers demanded in lieu of Fish and Game NZ telling its shareholders (licence holders) very little or nothing .
Ask questions yourself of your fish and game council if you are a fishing or shooting licence holder. You may even alert your MP or write to the Prime Minister. After all we’re meant to live in a democracy.
Remember if commercialisation of game shooting and trout fishing sees the demise of public and free access, then the public ownership of trout (and game birds) will slide down the toilet.
In fact it’s teetering on the toilet rim now.
But at the present, moves are being made to privatise game bird shooting,  and trout fishing. It is a move totally in the wrong direction to that ideal world. 
It is an erosion of the public ownership of fish and game.
What should be done?
Implement the law of Section 23 and Section 26ZN as it was clearly intended. Insist the laws’ loophole be closed as per the Palmer Amendment.

The pioneer settlers quite deliberately abandoned the UK feudal society, where fees are charged and access to the best trout or salmon fishing, costs “big” money. But that has been under attack by moneyed interests aided by inertia by authorities  

This entry was posted in Home. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Access- “Three Little Words” Languish Due to Inertia

  1. Francis Albert says:

    Let’s be emphatic on this point – our forbears came to this country to rid themselves of the Home country’s feudal system that arbitrarily assigned the fish and game resources – trout, salmon, deer, pheasant, grouse etc., to a handful of wealthy nobility. The intention of our forbears was that the fish and game resource is public property and shall not be owned by individuals for their private exploitation and profit making.
    In other words, wealth shall not be the factor determining who shall hunt and fish.
    DOC and Fish and Game NZ were negligent in allowing pheasant preserves to be set up.
    Over $1500 a day to shoot pheasant means only the “wealthy nobility” can afford it.
    Fish and game are closely inter-twined. To allow erosion in one, leads to erosion in the other.

  2. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Glad to see Mr.F. Albert Sinatra has come in on this, with a “Dry Fly Me To The Moon”, out of this insanity where I’m happy for maoris to own all the water & charge us heaps for access!!
    Saw a good price on a Moon buggy alongside some excellently priced burial plots.
    Wishing I hadn’t over spent on the Moon Buggy, “I realized that’s the last thing I need!!
    no mee hee,hee,hee! Key whore ya, tin a cocoa Kat toe yuh!

  3. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Joking & mockery to one side, from Francis, Key whores, or feline toes as above.
    The Ardern & cabal are in the process of dismantling the democracy of a once proud world model country to an apartheid with maori tribal controlling all aspects of our lives,from education to where you can flick a dry fly. Fish & game sport as we once conceived it, will be collateral damage loss. The project is well advanced now & unlikely to be turned around.
    Maori separatists can see the finish line & it’s all money & control, the grab will be completed with out a shot fired.
    But others maintain bloodshed is reading in the crystal ball. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls”.
    Our number is UP!!!

  4. Rex N. Gibson QSM says:

    The last F&G National Council was guilty of moral corruption of the long standing ethics of F&G when it flip-flopped on the issue of pheasant preserves. Pheasants, game birds, trout and salmon in or on our waterways are public property administered by F&G on behalf of all New Zealanders who wish to buy a licence. The National Council failed miserably in administering these resources over many years. The sooner we get a governance structure for F&G that is are their responsibilities in terms of “The Commons” the better. Sadly the history of bully-boy tactics by the status quo advocates suggests that direct Ministerial intervention may be necessary. The creeping privatization of hunting and fishing opportunities, especially in the North Island rivers quoted by Tony Orman, and the South Island high country, is based on the concept of personal greed and ownership being paramount; not the free and reasonable access to New Zealand citizens to the publically owned resources.

  5. Pete Watson says:

    If we allow our country to start charging for what has been our rights for a very long time set up purposely this way by our forebears then find me a raft and set me adrift. I would no longer wish to reside in this fast becoming police state where capitalism is ok for the rich at the expense of the poor who must conform to the socialist rules.

  6. Alan+Rennie says:

    As a builder I build solid from in the ground up, Govt needs to tell us how the heck can we have any fresh water fisheries reform if the solid base IE FRESH WATER, there is none in our rivers, If you dont get the foundation right, FRESH WATER, the rest of any reform wont work .

  7. A Bird says:

    Apathy rules supreme, many users of our great outdoors have lets us down by saying nothing.

  8. Stewart Hydes says:

    It used to be that all land holders were Kiwis .. and therefore, the values held by all land holders were inescapably some version of Kiwi values.
    It used to be that, wherever wild game existed .. land holders pretty-much overwhelmingly understood their obligation to allow public access.
    That all changed when wild game assumed hitherto unseen value.
    Both for farming .. and for guided pursuit (hunting and fishing).
    It changed further when many land holders in New Zealand became non-resident foreigners. One such foreigner once told me, face–to-face “if you Kiwis think you’re going to come up here and run willy-nilly over my land .. you’ve got another think coming”.
    To which I replied “we don’t want to run willy-nilly over your land .. we just want the access across your land .. to the public land beyond .. that we’ve always had”.
    A huge consequence of the restricted public access we are now seeing .. as a result of these changes .. are pockets of high populations of wild, introduced species.
    Be it particularly deer and tahr .. but also wild pigs, in some areas.
    Many land holders are effectively harbouring these species .. theregore, effectively helping their numbers get too high.
    These pockets of high numbers .. then result in calls for government culling.
    If Recreational Hunters still had fulfilment of the expectation of public access that our forebears intended .. to hunt the species they introduced for exactly that purpose .. then these pockets of wild animals would be removed. Once animals become more scarce .. then Recreational Hunters will push further and further into far-flung corners, in search of game.
    This would dramatically reduce problematic populations.
    Recreational Hunters and Fishers have billions of dollars worth of recreational assets .. spend millions of hours per year pursuing wild. Introduced species .. expending tens of millions of dollars in the process .. and harvesting millions of critters (deer, tahr, pigs, chamois, goats, wallaby, rabbits, hares, rats, ducks, geese, possums, feral cats, mustelids, trout and salmon).
    All of which amounts to helping protect our indigenous biodiversity.
    And all at no cost to the taxpayer.
    All we need .. to succeed .. is access.

  9. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    It is of utmost most importance at this juncture to comprehend what Ardern & cabal of boot lickers are planning.
    For us with interest in out door sport activities often involving water,
    i. e. fishing, waterfowl hunting etc. The govmnt has ordered DOC by way of “the options working group, ” to prepare the detail paper work for handing over the entire conservation estate to tribal authority, the 3 waters reform will complete the transfer of fresh water,& the entire coastline out to 12 n.miles is well advanced to transfer ownership to maoris.
    The implication for our sport is that we will be paying wealthy tribes for access in a perpetual money stream to use/access “THEIR” resource .
    No doubt you sports people will be in such a frenzy over this you can hardly contain your apathy.

  10. Johnny Wardle says:

    Access to outdoors is precious. It is living proof of our egalitarian society but there are those who want it eroded and gone – e.g. commercial exploiters, and out of ignorance and inertia, the Department of Conservation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 80 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here