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Politicians Provide Fish For 'Mum & Dad'! 

Yes, it is all on out in the Hauraki Gulf, and Marlborough Sounds - and "Mums and Dads" are are the apparent beneficiaries. But surprise, surprise - they want more - much more!

The column in todays NZH provides all the background, but along with all similar stories over the last week, it fails to nail the real narrative behind Dr Nick Smith's latest venture into realpolitic. 

Last week we had the sickening spectacle of a triumphant Nick Smith, alongside a grinning Nathan Guy and head nodding Maggie Barry announcing the new rules around Recreational Fishing Parks in the Gulf (& Marlborough Sounds)

It is always a triumph of course when an incumbent Government can improve the catch odds of the 'mums, dads and kids' who deserve more snapper fillets on the table - 1 million boat owners according to Nathan Guy, all at the expense of the commercial sector. The rest of us could only watch in horror as existing MPA (Marine Protected Areas) are deliberately sabotaged in the interests of these munificent Ministers fulfilling their vote catching populist 'wet-dream' changes to regulations. Oh what joy!

It is simply irreconcilable of course for recreational fishing to be encouraged in Marine Protected Areas that are designed solely for the purpose of protecting marine diversity. Dr Jeremy Helson – chief executive of Fisheries Inshore NZ Ltd makes this clear in his NZH article, along with the unusual concensus amongst all interested groups, including Forest & Bird, and both commercial and recreational fishers and iwi.)  

We all know that this ‘mum and dad’ argument is nothing more than cant and hypocrisy designed to appeal to the instincts of every New Zealander who fancies his/her chances to put a fish on the table. The so-called access of Kiwis to the water through ownership of over one million boats is of course a total nonsense – the vast majority have no such access, and simple observation of the trailers extant at Waikawau – the very epitome of a New Zealand all-tide  boat ramp on our coast will reveal just how many of the so-called mum and dad dinghies with ten-horse Evinrudes are actually in the water.

The myth of 'mum, dad and the kids' explodes when simple observation reveals the predominance of $100k plus combinations of plastic and chrome driven by 100 – 300hp Suzukis and Yamahas, with mostly two middle aged male crews. These provide high speed access to the mussel rafts out in the Gulf where the majority of accessible snapper hide amongst the mussel laden ropes to easily access their favoured immature mussels.

Those that venture further afield to access the other known snapper habitats generally have the latest fish finding technology that would put that available to the commercial sector to shame. The corresponding myth of giant commercial nets sweeping the Gulf clean of available snapper is demonstrably untrue, but promulgation of this and its equally emotive myth of vast by-catch dumps has suited the purposes of the amateurs while keeping their own dirty secret surrounding their own actual catch totally hidden behind deep hull wells, and silence

Numbers may be decreasing at Waikawau as other ramps become available, but the average  size of the rigs increases year on year – a fact acknowledged by those who use the ramps, though less obvious during the current dairy downturn! There is no way the Government can justify its million-boat claim, but there were 600 trailers counted  at Waikawau on one day after New Year a couple of years ago.   

The lies told about catches are endemic, and bear no relation to the reality evident every day of the week at ramps like that at Waikawau. These guys are not spending vast sums required to pay for and maintain the rigs that queue up on the ramp each day, to travel ten minutes to the rafts for nothing – they will cry 'fish-poor' till the cows come home, but life goes on. Fisheries inspection remains totally ineffective within the amateur fishing sector, and most inspectors are frankly cowed at the prospect of locating excess catch aboard the giant rigs as they make their way back into the Waikato.

The incidence of inspection routines has diminished over the years to the point where it appears that the commercial sector is by far the prevalent target of the DPI inspectorate.

So never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and the triumphalism demonstrated by our intrepid ministers made great television and copy for the newspapers who buy into the ‘mum, dad and the kids’ story wholus-bolus. Never once are the ‘facts’ that are laid out like so much ‘soft’ bait for the electorate questioned, and the commercial guys always manage somehow to look grumpy and un-trustworthy. TV coverage was at its usual abysmal standard, though the industry could take steps to ramp up its thoroughly bedraggled image. 

For example, consider for one moment what will happen to the price of fish in the super-market when the commercial guys are pushed out further into deeper unprotected water that requires larger and better equipped vessels. It won’t be insignificant. The ministers have drawn a line across the top of the true Gulf as a compromise. – let us hope and pray that they do not succumb to the bleating of the amateur groups who are determined to extend it to a line from Great Barrier to the Mercurys.  

May our ministers for once bring themselves to understand the conflicting objectives of Marine Protected Areas, and Recreational Fishing Parks, and is it too much to ask that they give priority the former? It would be nice to think that our Scott Simpson may be brave enough to bring these issues to the fore before irreversible damage is done to our common marine resources by a Cabinet totally bedazzled by the populist vote.




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