The government is planning an independent review of Fish & Game, following concerns that the organisation is no longer fit for purpose, RNZ reported earlier this month.
Environment minister Eugenie Sage said a review was timely, given the impact COVID-19 could have on fishing and hunting license revenues.
“My priority is to ensure that the governance functions of Fish and Game at the national and regional level are well supported and the organisation can undertake its statutory duties effectively,” she was quoted as saying by RNZ.
Lindsay Lyons, the former Fish & Game chairman who was ousted from his role in the last week of April, said he was “thrilled the minister has now come out and said she is supporting a review”, adding that he believes he was voted out, as others on the council were not in favour of the review.
“There is resistance to change but the current model is no longer fit for purpose.”
He added that the accounts of regional Fish and Game councils should also be forensically examined as part of any external review. Over the last two years, Fish & Game councils have had three external audits, which have highlighted governance and conflict of interest issues.
The Department of Conservation had also been looking into how the organisation could be improved. Lyons was the chairman for six years and on the council for 12 and has been replaced by Paul Shortis.
A formal review of Fish & Game as an organisation has not been done for some time, Sage said.
“It’s useful for any organisation to have a regular health check on how it is performing against its statutory purpose and functions and what, if any changes are needed,” she was quoted as saying by Stuff.
The scope of the review has not been finalised yet.
National: review chance to refocus
National’s conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says the review into Fish & Game needs to ensure the organisation’s focus returns to working in the best interests of anglers and hunters.
“Over recent years, there has been tension between Fish & Game and farming groups that has contributed to a rural-urban divide,” he said.
“Many prized fishing and hunting spots are on privately-owned farmland and there is a lot of goodwill between individual farmers and recreational hunters and anglers in negotiating access.”
Dean added that everyone needs to take responsibility for water quality. “Playing the blame game and picking on one sector has been unfair, unhelpful, and needs to be addressed as part of this review.”
He said that disagreements had led to “major friction” with the organisation itself.
“The main objective for Fish & Game needs to be managing, maintaining, and enhancing sports fish and game birds’ habitats and ensuring that our hunters and fishers are being advocated for,” Dean said.
“I hope this review into Fish & Game can result in a culture that seeks to reduce the urban-rural divide and brings the organisation back to focusing on doing the best job possible for those who pay its levies.”
Fish & Game is a national body with 12 regional councils, established in 1990 to represent the interest of anglers and hunters and provide coordination of the management, enhancement, and maintenance of sports fish and game.
The government expects Fish & Game NZ to oversee the effective management of the country’s sports fish and game resources carried out by 12 regions.
Each region conducts its own field of operations. However, the national body, comprising members appointed by each of the regional bodies, is responsible for setting national policy.