by Tony Orman
Kapiti Fly Fisher Club editor Malcolm Francis’ e mail reminded me “an election is looming in September and the issues with the present Governments attitudes to clean rivers not easy.”
As if I didn’t know. You see one of my early mentors in deerstalking and trout fishing was the late John B Henderson, president of the NZ Deerstalkers’ Association and a councillor on the Wellington Acclimatisation Society for a number of years. John and I hunted the Tararuas behind Otaki Forks and he showed me in the 1950s, how to fish the dry fly on the Wairarapa’s Makakahi and Mangatainoka rivers.
He was a tireless and brilliant advocate. John was intelligent and well educated and yet by nature was humble and a true gentleman. He believed in fighting strongly for a clean environment and sensible fish and game management. He never shied away from politics because he had a strong belief it was everyone’s right and duty to get in and question politicians. His philosophy rubbed off onto me I guess.
No wonder I had a prolonged feisty, public debate with government cabinet minister Duncan Mcntyre in Hastings prior to the 1972 election. A main subject was trout farming but selling land to rich Americans to exploit fishing and hunting values and “Save Manapouri” from raising the lake to give discounted power to an multinational corporate for a an aluminium smelter also featured. McIntyre was defeated in the Hasting seat, a dumping which the “NZ Herald” editorial described as a “shock result.”
“I urge the public to be more determined to bring the debate to the public for its judgement and never to be duped into believing that politics and the environment are other than cause and effect,” John said on more than one occasion in his NZDA speeches or Victoria University environmental lectures.
What this means is threats to your trout fishing start with politics. Same with sea fishing. For example, corporate sea fishing companies lobby their minister. Dairying , irrigation, forestry and other powerful commercial interests lobby politicians and departments. They employ persons to do just that. Corporates make donations to political parties to gain favour and precedence over the public interest.
In 1972 the outdoor public voted strongly against an arrogant government. But it seems today there’s a contagious doziness and a whole lot of inertia out there. After all a million Kiwis cannot be bothered registering as a voter or to vote in general elections. The fishing and hunting arena is no different. Take Fish and Game Councils. Recent fish and game elections, there’s been that inertia with a number of regions not having enough nominations to fill the seats around tables. Voting numbers were poor.
It’s that inertia that contributes to mediocre government and local councils with poor decision making.
You might say, “well set an example”. Well since the 1970s I’ve spent about 25 years on various Acclimatisation Society councils and on their successor fish and game councils plus a few other fishing, hunting and environmental bodies to boot. I’ve done my dash – I reckon it’s younger people’s turn.
But in a general election I can vote and I always have and will in future.
I confess I’m a swinging voter having voted for Labour, National, even Social Credit (remember them?) and NZ First to name some. Swinging voters are the ones who make the difference. Apparently just a 2% swing in voting can decide which party makes it to government. And under MMP the parties other than Labour or National can form government. Pundits are picking NZ First to make a big impact come September.
Malcolm highlighted “clean rivers” as a big issue. Indeed water and rivers I believe, will be a very big issue. This government proposes to centralise things – that’s a word for dictatorial “state control” in my book. It proposes “centralising” the functioning of the Resource Management Act. In one way you can feel sorry for government as its case is not helped by its spokesman the often rude, abrasive, ego-centric Environment Minister Nick Smith.
I am concerned about a few other issues. 1080 poison (again use of it has been centralised to government) – no one really knows its effect on freshwater ecosystems except I understand eels and freshwater crayfish have been found with 1080 residues way above permissible levels. I’m concerned about foreigners buying farm and forestry (2016 figures show a very big increase in foreign buyers compared to 2015) and blocked access. Excessive tourists and freedom campers pooping by riversides anger me. I’m concerned at total mismanagement of sea fisheries. Kahawai, which I enjoy fly rodding for, have been plundered by corporate purse seiners.
Perhaps you may disagree with me. I’d be delighted if you agreed or disagreed. Either reaction shows you’re not afflicted with inertia and apathy.
Thankfully groups like NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers and Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations are advocacies. Personally I’m disappointed with the lack of strong advocacy at election times by NZ Fish and Game. But then bizarrely when Fish and Game Councils were set up in 1987 they were made by law, duty bound to the Minister of Conservation. I believe Fish and Game’s first and foremost moral duty is to its shareholders, i.e. licence holders. Perhaps then action is over to the individual – you?
So to the forthcoming general election, take an interest. Study policies and MPs statements, even go to candidate meetings or through letters to editor, facebook etc., ask questions on key issues such as clean rivers, 1080, irrigation, foreign ownership, pollution or whatever.
Make a difference this election.