David Haynes column for Reel Life May 2017

  • 31/05/2017
  • Richie Cosgrove

From AGM'S to elections

Our Annual General Meeting is scheduled for 8 June in Rotorua.  We are grateful to Eastern Region Fish & Game for the use of their meeting rooms and encourage all our members to attend and submit remits. 

One of the many topics on this year’s agenda is the political landscape, and whilst the NZFFA is party apolitical, this does not exclude us from lobbying for policy change to protect and preserve our freshwater fisheries and ecosystems. 

Given we have a General Election this year the Federation will be discussing what messages it wishes to promote in terms of trout-friendly political party policies.

Just like the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ), Federated Mountain Clubs, Fish & Game and Legasea, historically, the NZFFA has issued pre-election questionnaires to all political parties to gauge how well their policies support members’ interests. 

These are analysed, scored and presented as an aide to voting preferences. 

The effectiveness of this approach over the last decade at least is questionable given we have seen freshwater fisheries continue to degrade, our game animals still being labelled “pests”, public access becoming less secure, sea fishery species (such as gurnard and crayfish) collapse in some areas and Kiwis being displaced from iconic walks and rivers by increasing tourist numbers. 

We are also continually reminded by the populist media that duck hunting is barbaric, fishing is cruel and sporting firearms and armed criminals are equivalents.

Given the 700,000 people who go sea fishing at least once a year, 100,000 freshwater anglers and 242,000 registered firearms licence holders, you would think these potential ONE MILLION VOTES would be vigorously courted by all political parties, especially when we are given not one, but two votes under the MMP system. 

Well, political support for the outdoors is thin on the ground; United Future, due to its historical link with Zane and Stuart Mirfin’s Outdoors Recreation Party of 2002, is assumed by some to still represent outdoors interests yet the slightly urbane but very urban Peter Dunne is far from being an outdoorsman, in fact, one of his associates quipped that “Peter thinks the outdoors is where he parks his car”.

NZ First has some weighty outdoors policies, care of Richard Prosser, but these are not die-in-a-ditch issues for the leadership and suffer from realisation due to NZ First’s simple refusal to engage in negotiations (supply and confidence agreements) that leading parties have entered into since MMP was introduced in 1996 in order to form a workable majority Government. 

In addition the NZ First policy on freshwater is economic interests, such as irrigation, must prevail over environmental imperatives.

National, Labour and Greens have no outdoors policies, neither have ACT, Maori Party, Mana nor the Conservatives (do these politicians ever get outdoors?) which leaves just the little guys - Democrats for Social Credit, Ban1080, Gareth Morgan’s TOP and the NZ Outdoors Party. 

Ban1080 is single message, single issue but it is an outdoors issue, especially for game hunters. 

Democrats for Social Credit is an example of a great idea whose time has not yet come, although their environmental policy headlines are outdoors-friendly. 

Gareth Morgan has admitted to the press that if he does not win a seat in this election he will fold the party, lest his ego suffer further contusions. 

This leaves the Outdoors Party, which was founded to fight for outdoor interests. 

Given we have two votes, let’s hope the outdoors community uses them to benefit future generations’ right to enjoy what little we have left.

David Haynes, Acting President, New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers

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