Looking Forward : A Fish Mainland Opinion Piece

Fish Mainland looks forward to working with the new coalition Government. We are confident the new

Government will instigate a real change to what South Island recreational fishers experienced this last political term.

For example, on October 5, the outgoing Labour Government announced marine protected areas (MPAs) to be established along the southeast region of the South Island. After three years of silence, such an announcement during the general election was unprecedented.

This announcement was a real blow to recreational and commercial fishers alike. It was the consequence of a $4million, multi-year, Department of Conservation-led planning process, with little regard for locals’ concerns.

First, DoC held its last public meeting on MPA planning in 2017 in Owaka, the Catlins. Locals were so incensed by the lack of substantive arguments for locking up longstanding fishing grounds, several expected a police presence was needed.

Second, DoC ceased holding public meetings and selectively chose members of a MPA planning forum. To control behaviour and the process, DoC muzzled the forum members.

Third, public input was limited to formal consultation, last held in 2020, stacked in favour of DoC and like-minded nongovernment organisations that fully utilised media channels to pad the number of submissions in support of MPAs, despite most submitters outside the region having no understanding of the local situation.

The purpose was to focus Ministerial communications into a numbers game, those in support versus those objecting, with the latter communicated without the detail and emotion behind real local concerns.

Fourth, it was apparent DoC did behind-the-scenes deals with Ngai Tahu to gain their support for the MPAs. Their support came through their agreed access to MPAs and ‘comanagement’ of them. We had no forewarning of such agreements, nor much in the way of subsequent explanation. Also, the boundaries for Type-2 MPAs have not been explained.

The public should have been fully informed of such material changes and provided opportunities to express their views; it is unacceptable the outgoing Government had such disregard for natural justice and due process.

In summary, the real culprit was DoC being allowed to have undue influence in the MPA planning process and Ministerial communications but where was Fisheries New Zealand (MPI) and support for fishers?

Why did the MPA planning forum lack recreational fisher representation, which could have logically come from a longstanding Marine Recreational Forum in the region?

How could the MPA planning forum fail to respond to local fishers’ proposed MPA alternatives?

Southeast fishers consider much better decisions can be made about what areas need protection and in ways that minimise adverse impacts on existing users and Treaty settlement obligations.

One way to bring about improvements is to better substantiate where recreational fishing occurs by collecting data on catch and effort. For this purpose, Fish Mainland developed a recreational fisher self-reporting system aptly named Mainland Catch.

Fish Mainland is working with Datacom to further improve Mainland Catch. The improvements will simplify its roll out to both IOS and Android platforms and provide a better user interface (app) for creating trips, adding fishers, and recording catches, while also providing both light and dark modes to improve usability in bright sunlight conditions while at sea.

The new Mainland Catch app will improve performance and responsiveness and enable the secure capture and retention of data to allow detailed reporting, as well as support both English and Te Reo languages.

We encourage you to show your support for Fish

Mainland by becoming a member for free and making donations via our website or bank account no 03-0823-0101056-000.

Have you downloaded the Mainland Catch App?

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