Commercial freshwater fishermen are upset that the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fisheries) Amendment Bill has been railroaded into Parliament without any consultation. Bill Chisholm, spokesperson for the commercial eel industry said that commercial eel, flounder and mullet fishermen were opposed to the Bill, and had deep concerns about how iwi exemptions would work. “There are one or two parts of the Bill which we accept, such as improved definitions and strengthening provisions for pest fish management. Everything else is pure tommy-rot,” Mr Chisholm said.
The Bill significantly increases DoC’s powers to close freshwater areas to commercial and recreational fishing, manage lands adjacent spawning areas, impose fishing gear restrictions, manage intake structures and flood control works and require authorisations to fish in Conservation Areas. The Bill also proposes to give precedence to native fish plans over sports fish plans, and will massively increase overlap with the Fisheries Act, Resource Management Act and other legislation. This was noted by the Treasury audit of the Regulatory Impact Statement which accompanied the Bill.
Commercial fishermen have always had concerns about DoC’s overlap with the Fisheries Act 1996, for freshwater species such as eels, flounder and mullet. “We don’t need any duplication of bureaucracy”, Mr Chisholm said. “The Bill was supposed to overcome the problem of overlapping regulations, but it makes things worse and the Regulatory Impact Statement clearly states that it has not addressed this fundamental problem. Some judicious consultation might have sorted this out, but clearly DoC is not interested in what we have to say. We have written to DoC before on their freshwater reforms, but they do not usually reply.”
Of particular concern was the exemption from all parts of the Bill to iwi, on the basis that Treaty Settlement rights should not be affected. “If this Bill was so good, as DoC claims, why would iwi want to be exempt?” Mr Chisholm said. “The bottom line is that this Bill is bad for everyone in the freshwater sphere. It is essentially an empire-building exercise for DoC to create another layer of bureaucracy over most freshwater activities. It needs to be completely re-drafted in full consultation with all water users.”
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