Home' Fish and Game : September 2016 Contents EMOCRACY IS A BEAUTIFUL THING, PROVIDING EVERYONE THE
opportunity to regularly hold decision makers to account.
Perhaps that’s why the concept has long been a target for cynics.
In 1947, Winston Churchill told Britain’s Parliament “democracy is the worst
form of government except all those other forms that have been tried”.
And Chicago’s tough, corrupt political climate of the early 20th Century
spawned advice to political aspirants to “vote early and vote often” if they wanted
to ensure success.
Unfortunately, the ballot box choices facing anglers, hunters and others who
care about the environment aren’t as amusing.
Water quality is declining, concerns over development are rising and
recreational access to the outdoors is being increasingly restricted. The solutions
to these problems lie with regional and district councils which are responsible for
making the rules and enforcing them.
Unfortunately, many of these councils are either in denial, dominated by
environmentally unsympathetic councillors or paralysed by the fear of a backlash
from vested interests. This year, democracy is giving you the opportunity
to change things for the better by voting in the local government elections in
Local government elections arguably have a greater impact on the average New
Zealander’s everyday life than national general elections, but sadly the majority of
eligible voters don’t bother to take part. In the last local government elections in
2013, only 42 per cent of those entitled to vote actually did so. This is a woeful
result for a country that has a proud record for pioneering, transparent, modern
democratic systems and institutions.
Many of these apathetic voters who didn’t participate will be Fish & Game
licence holders who fish, hunt and enjoy New Zealand’s great outdoors but aren’t
prepared to stand up for what they believe. By not voting, they are squandering
an opportunity to set policy that will protect a way of life they love and treasure
for future generations.
The stark truth is that if anglers and hunters aren’t prepared to fight for what
they cherish, it may well be taken as a sign by those opposed to Fish & Game’s
values that they can do what they want because licence holders don’t care.
There will always be excuses for not voting. None of them are valid.
A recent letter to the editor of Fish & Game magazine put it well: “We are
fortunate to live in a democracy and it makes no sense that when invited to
participate in establishing the values of our community so many don’t bother. It
is not ‘politics’ to participate – it is good citizenship. If anglers don’t represent
themselves, no one will.”
In the lead up to this year’s elections, heed this advice and make sure your
voice is heard.
Scrutinise council candidates to decide if their values align with yours, or if they
are even thinking about the issues which matter to you. Look at the track record
of existing councillors seeking re-election to see if they have fulfilled the promises
they made during the 2013 campaign.
Get active, agitate and educate voters and candidates by attending public
election meetings. Write letters to your local newspapers and provide opinion
pieces for their editorial pages. If you belong to an angling or hunting club,
encourage other members to join you by also writing letters to the editor.
Your vote is precious and council candidates must be able to justify why you
should give it to them rather than taking your support for granted.
Why stop at just voting? Fish & Game licence holders could stand up and be
counted by running for election and becoming a councillor. That way anglers
and hunters can have a seat at the decision-making table to help ensure the
environment is protected and their communities are properly governed.
There is another quote on democracy that is neither funny nor witty. George
Bernard Shaw observed: “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed
no better than we deserve.”
In this year’s local government elections, make sure the environment, anglers,
hunters and our children get what they deserve – regional and district councils
which care about clean water, are listening to their communities and protecting
our birth right rather than selling it off or allowing it to be degraded.
New Zealand deserves better and to get it, we all need to vote. Not early, not
often, just in plenty of time to ensure our voices are heard.
Don Rood, Communications Manager
New Zealand Fish and Game Council
HAT EQUATES TO ALMOST
one year’s income for the entire
organisation and creates cause for
Why is Fish & Game spending this large
amount of licence holders’ money in the
courts? Just how well are any gains actually
being secured? Is there a better way?
The simple reality is anglers and game
bird hunters have been spending this money
because the entities legally responsible for
protecting the environment are not doing
The Department of Conservation
(DOC) is required under the Conservation
Act to “preserve so far as is practicable
all indigenous freshwater fisheries, and
protect recreational freshwater fisheries and
freshwater fish habitats”.
Any plain language interpretation of the
law and the place of trout and salmon in New
Zealand would confirm they are ‘recreational
freshwater fisheries’, and it follows they
must live in freshwater habitats. So what’s
the problem? Despite the law being pretty
clear, the public – anglers in particular – are
entitled to ask why DOC isn’t leading the fight
to protect freshwater fish habitat.
The answer is that as a government
department, DOC is required to toe the
party line and operate in accordance with
the government of the day’s decisions
and directions. As we all know, the present
Government’s direction is very much focused
on natural resource-based economic growth.
At the top of its agenda is the expansion of
large-scale, taxpayer-subsidised irrigation to
intensify land use.
So, while DOC is responsible for
protecting the environment, the Government
takes the view that it is not a good look for
one of its departments to publicly, let alone
judicially, be at loggerheads with another
over government policy. In the present
administration, conservation is not ranked
highly around the cabinet table. Those
portfolios involving agriculture rank well
above conservation – indeed, so far above
that conservation is now right at the bottom
of the ministerial hierarchy!
Not surprisingly, despite its staff’s
commitment and ecological knowledge,
my sense is that DOC is discouraged from
becoming substantively engaged in front-line
cases to protect freshwater habitats. The result
is such battles are being left to not-for-profit,
citizen-led, non-government environmental
organisations such as Fish & Game, Forest &
Bird and the Environmental Defence Society.
This is a sad state of affairs for a country
that has built its domestic identity, and sought
to differentiate itself internationally, on its
There are other entities, such as regional
councils, specifically charged by the RMA with
protecting freshwater habitat. The problem
is that while they have the responsibility to
protect “significant habitats of indigenous
fauna (i.e. native fish) and of trout and
salmon” they are also obliged to promote
I was crunching some figures the other day and
was surprised to identify that by the time Fish
& Game has completed the current crop of legal
cases it is involved in, it will have spent around
$8 million on Resource Management Act (RMA)
litigation since 1999.
A Beautiful And Powerful
Thing When Used Well
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