The Minister of Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, is floundering.
He has had a shocker of a time on why his ministry didn’t pick up earlier on Fonterra’s whey protein botulism scare. Now Stephen Joyce has been flown in to clean up the mess.
But I reckon his worst errors of judgement have been in Fisheries, and there is a striking pattern emerging.
He botched the Otago/Southland commercial paua take extension: poor consultation, backing commercial at the expense of everyday Kiwis, polarising the community; then kicked for touch.
It was the same story with the North Island East Coast crayfish quota, where commercial interests were again protected and public interests overridden.
Now he wants to slash the recreational snapper bag limit from nine a day to three, while once again giving gold plated protection to big commercial interests. In doing so he has made a series of blunders:
- MPI research shows the snapper stock is growing and Guy himself crowed about that here.
- He said he would consult on options to reduce the commercial take as well as recreational limits, but failed to do so;
- MPI’s consultation has been flawed: an impenetrable consultation document and no ministry-organised public meetings –so Legasea (the advocacy arm of one of the main sport fishing groups) has taken a lead in doing that for them;
- Seeking to lock in “proportionality” so that commercial interests get most of the upside on future catch increases – more on this later.
- Ignoring the opportunities to reduce wasteful by-catch and improve the sustainability of fishing methods (despite allocating $26 million to “precision harvesting” for a consortium of big fishing companies)
All in all this has caused outrage among the wider Kiwi fishing community. What is proposed is nothing but privatisation of public fishing rights to suit commercial quota holders.
Labour is campaigning hard to bring some fairness to this issue. You can see statements by our leader here and here and from me here. We are out around the country over the next weeks and stand squarely for defending the public’s right to catch snapper to feed their families.