Guest post from Alan Simmons, President & Co-Leader. NZ Outdoors Party
items in italics are actual quotes from DOC briefing papers to the Minister.
Please help to build up a fighting fund in case we need to mount a judicial challenge.. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/save-fish-and-game-from-a-government-takeover
The Acclimatisation Society movement started in 1860 when settlers from the UK decided to import to their new homeland fish and game birds that had been important to their way of life in the country they had left. Many of them had been denied access to fish and game because they were considered the property of the gentry so in their new homeland it was a dream of the early settlers to create an egalitarian society where all persons could enjoy the sport of Kings. Acclimatisation societies then spring up all over New Zealand to help with the distribution, releasing and establishment of these species so that the settlers could enjoy the successes of their endeavours. Overtime, these regional societies were given the authority to not only managed those resources but to sell licenses to pay for that management. These regional acclimatisation Societies were generally made up of committees of local people who managed the sport.
This process successfully continued for a 130 years until it was decided by a government in 1990 to replace the Acclimatisation Societies with a new organisation called Fish and Game.
I had been sitting on a Acclimatisation Society as the chairman of the Game Bird committee and at the same time I sat on a regional council made up of all the region groups. I then moved the Central North Island and was appointed to what was known as the Central North Island Conservancy Council which administered the resources around the central North Island and the Southern Lakes District via the NZ Wildlife Department. .As the new Fish and Game Councils evolved I found a letter in my box appointing me to the Transitional Eastern Council. As a result of that I ended up being appointed by the minister to the Transitional New Zealand Council which was charged with making it all happen.
The regional councils had a long tradition of professionally managing the resource and the habitat. Acclimatisation Societies had been instrumental in saving many wetlands from being drained, some purchased by members raising money by sausage sizzles and working bees. Rivers were being saved from developers by the use of River Conservation orders. Unfortunately in those days the Societies had to pay rates on land it owned so the wetlands were gifted to the Wildlife Department who as a government Department did not pay rates. Unfortunately once Fish and Game came into being much of the wetlands and other assets were scooped up by DOC and never returned to the sportsmen who had toiled for years to purchase them. That was one of my big disappointments in those transitional years that we were unable to claw back those assets as successive Ministers of DOC did not agree to them being returned.
In 2020 after intensive lobbying pressure by groups opposed to F&G especially over the dirty dairying campaign the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced that she would undertake a review. She allayed fears amongst the public by saying “the review was being limited to a “health check’ of the governance of F&G. She said it is not a review of F&G statutory functions.” She Lied! The terms of reference as published at the beginning of the final report are far from that.
Anglers and Game Bird hunters need to strenuously oppose these changes. They will gut this traditional organisation of its history and it’s very essence where sportspeople have funded and managed the resource for all New Zealanders to enjoy. There has been a substantial public benefit of Fish and Games work such as the saving of wetlands and the advocacy for clean water at no cost to the country. The Government appointees have the ability to skew that work and take Fish and Game down another path. In my opinion this will be the end of 130 years of anglers and hunters managing the resource and the beginning of Government control over the resources. It allows organisations with other agendas to hamstring F&G work and eventually reduce it to a government department. In my opinion this is the end of Fish and Game.
So what is being proposed as a result of that review.
1. That the number of regions be decreased from 12 to 6. There will be redundancies within the 70 staff including managers. This will require a law change. It also may have a bearing on inter-availability of licenses and funding.
2. That the NZ Council be elected by a separate election process. I actually agree with this and had campaigned for that over the years. It has always been a problem where NZ Councillors are responsible to regional council but must act in the interests of NZ as a whole.
3. That the regional councils will only have 4 councilors elected. As it is proposed there be only six regions that is 24 representatives from 150,000 license holders. They continue to serve on those councils without payment.
4. That the government will appoint 4 Councillors to each council who will be paid. These will be from all walks of life and have no experience or loyalty to F&G and could be appointed by lobbying from industrial farming groups or organisations opposed to trout fishing and hunting such as Forest and Bird who consider trout to be the “stoat” of the waterways and SAFE who oppose duck shooting..
5. That the chairman be appointed by the Minister of Conservation. This removes any evenness in decision making.
6. That the government appointed Councillors will have full voting rights. So now the chair not only being appointed but has the casting vote.
7. That the Minister can remove any Councillor appointed or voted in by election from holding office at any time for any purpose. So oppose the governments agenda and be sacked! Basically everyone obeys the political line.
8. The Minister will be given powers to “Instruct” Fish and Game. Up until now the councils report to Parliament and are administered under the Conservation Act.
9 The implementation group would be chaired by the Chairman of the NZ Fish and Council in a paid capacity. The chairman of an organisation charged with advocating in the interests of license holders is now paid to advocate for its destruction.
10. The chairman of F&G agrees with the recommendations and will lead the adoption within F&G as that will “ limit public consultation to potential legislation changes recognising that we will need to be careful in our choice of language.” from Ministers Briefing paper.
11. The changes to regions will commence immediately as they can be implemented by Gazette notice and the Chairman of F&G will work with the Chief Advisor to make this happen. “Doc acknowledges there will be some controversy but if they move quickly they are confident they can overcome any opposition.“
12. It was agreed by the Minister that Mervyn English, Chief Advisor for DOC, ” works to reduce the temperature around the situation and minimise destructive internal/ external events and that any delays may lead to loss of public confidence in the review“. That’s us trying to save and protect the F&G movement.
13. A steering group be made up of the “chair of F&G as that would be symbolic and create less controversy“. The committee is: Ray Grubb chair of the NZ Fish and Game Council, Brian Anderson the coms manager of Fish and Game, effectively a staff member who is unlikely to go against his boss, Geoff Cornwall Doc and Mervyn English chief advisor DOC. This committee has already convened and began to implement the changes.
14. Increase in costs. Who will pay the cost of the government appointees in the councils? It is likely that will be funded from license sales which are already under pressure.
15. Minster will be given new powers to direct amendment to management plans.
16. The appointed Government Chairman of the NZ Council will be paid.
17. “The regional councils must be made up of a mix of elected Councillors, appointed councilors and Iwi nominated Councillors.” Are the Iwi nominated Councillors part of the 4 ministerial nominated or extra, and are they to be paid.
18. A new function to be added by legislation. “To have regards to the interests of Maori as treaty partner“.
19. in advice to the minister it was said “that these changes need to be made before the next F&G elections in November as the momentum would be lost if Councillors were appointed for another 3 years.”
20. According to advice given to the minster “there is high public interest in ensuring F&G is functioning well and if it became necessary for the government to intervene it would be more acceptable if F&G have been leading the introduction of good practice.” I’m amazed at that comment. F&G have done an outstanding job over 30 years at no cost to government.
Alan Simmons. email@example.com
President & Co-Leader. NZ Outdoors Party
99 Grace Rd. RD2. Turangi. New Zealand.
Phone. local 07 386 7576 | mobile 027 4980 304
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