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Fish & Game outlines priorities for govt with new manifesto

6 min read
Fish & Game manifesto

The manifesto lays out five key requests for the new Government. Photo: Adobe Stock

Corina Jordan, chief executive of Fish & Game New Zealand, says the manifesto sets out the areas Fish & Game believes the new National-led Government should be focusing on over the next three years.

“Our vision is a New Zealand where freshwater habitats and species flourish, where hunting and fishing traditions thrive and all Kiwis enjoy access to sustainable wild fish and game resources,” she says.

Jordan says that the new Government’s plan to create a new fishing and hunting portfolio is encouraging and they look forward to sharing their vision with the new minister.

“Fish & Game is an apolitical organisation, and its vision applies to any stripe of government. Ultimately, what we are seeking is strong and enduring changes that stand the test of time and don’t get easily derailed,” she says.

The manifesto lays out five key requests for the new Government:

  1. Support to keep doing Fish & Game’s work by maintaining its mandate when reforming conservation laws. The organisation says it is ready to take on more, with support and funding.
  2. Strong and effective measures put in place to protect Aotearoa’s rivers and lakes from pollution, water over-allocation, and further degradation.
  3. Strong protection for wetlands – maintaining and enhancing existing wetlands and backing landowners to create new wetlands for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
  4. Work with communities, sectors, and iwi to collaboratively develop solutions for the benefit of our communities and treasured freshwater.
  5. Enable New Zealanders to continue to get out in nature, enjoy Aotearoa’s hunting and fishing heritage, and identity, and improve wellbeing. Fish & Game says it does this by ensuring access to the natural environment, and sports fish and game, alongside indigenous species in Aotearoa New Zealand’s ecosystems.

“At Fish & Game, we know that what’s good for anglers and hunters is good for all New Zealanders – clean and healthy waterways and thriving wetlands, sustainable sources of wild kai, and access to the great outdoors all contribute to our wellbeing,” says Jordan.

“We are New Zealand’s primary freshwater guardian – we have an outstanding record of achievements in protecting and enhancing the environment and representing the aspirations of game bird hunters and anglers.”

Fish & Game’s work includes creating, restoring, and protecting wetlands for game bird hunting and conservation and securing Water Conservation Orders, which recognise and protect the outstanding values of lakes and rivers for angling, recreational, and conservation.

It also advocates for protecting access to wild places and spaces for hunting and angling and pushes for regional and national policy plans to protect the environment including setting robust bottom lines for healthy waters.

“We not only focus on valued introduced species but also help protect indigenous non-game species and this is something we are very proud of,” says Jordan.

The manifesto also identifies several challenges that it says need urgent attention, shaping the five key requests presented to the Government.

Fish & Game manifesto
The manifesto sets out the areas Fish & Game believes the new National-led Government should be focusing on over the next three years. Photo: Adobe Stock

Conservation Act and Wildlife Act reform

Fish & Game says that the current legislative reform proposals put hunting and fishing at risk by putting a sharp focus on the absolute protection of indigenous biodiversity and failing to recognise valued introduced species, the impacts of climate change, and the role of people and communities as central to conservation efforts. The organisation says that while it supports the idea of better protection for rare, threatened, and endangered species, it believes this can be done while recognising valued introduced species as well, which also require healthy habitats.

Freshwater

Fish & Game says that nearly half of the country’s lakes are in poor health and vast lengths of rivers are adversely impacted by nitrogen and phosphorous inputs, with almost a fifth severely degraded by nutrient pollution.

“Overallocation of water in rivers is causing the ecology in the rivers to decline. New Zealand only has around 10% of its original wetland habitat remaining. It is important to ensure that strong and effective measures are in place to protect our rivers, lakes, and wetlands from pollution, water take overallocation, drainage, and damage to their form and function.”

Firearm safety

In its manifesto, the organisation says that its enforcement team of more than 200 warranted officers is one of Aotearoa’s prime enforcers of hunting and fishing regulations under the Conservation and Wildlife Acts.

“We encourage hunters to comply with all laws around firearms and their use, but those laws must be practical, fair, and reasonable, represent public good, and work for hunters and shooters.”

Fish & Game’s solutions include ensuring that law reform does not impact its ability to carry out its enforcement work.

“Our warranted officers must continue to be able to enter private property. We must be able to continue our work prosecuting offenders in relation to breaches of the Conservation and Wildlife Acts as that relates to sports fish and game birds.”

Access

Legal access to New Zealand’s rivers, lakes, coastline, and their margins is valued by anglers and game bird hunters.

“The ability to gain access to these areas and know where they are is a fundamental component of fishing, hunting, and mahinga kai. However, the access to public recreational resources that New Zealanders have enjoyed in the past is being eroded through changed land use and changing land ownership.”

Fish & Game suggests amending the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater so that items that provide for public access on publicly owned or managed wetlands (such as mai mai, signs, boardwalks) are permitted activities.

“… recognise and maintain Fish & Game’s mandate to take a lead in processes that result in legal and physical access to fishing and hunting areas, including:

  • advocating for public access
  • participating in statutory processes related to public access through esplanade reserves, esplanade strips, and access strips, te Tiriti o Waitangi settlement processes, High Country land tenure review processes and land sales to overseas buyers.
  • providing access through our owned or managed properties
  • negotiating access agreements with private landowners
  • providing information on access arrangements and physical works such as tracks and signage”

Stewardship land review

‘Stewardship’ is a conservation category that provides protection based on the natural and historic values of the land. Stewardship land is managed by the Department of Conservation, which is undertaking the review. Fish & Game says it supports this review as much of the stewardship land is not appropriately classified and is therefore insufficiently protected.    

Climate change

With climate change resulting in more weather variability, more rainfall will result in flood events, and at other times drought and heat waves will cause lower water levels in wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

“This will have flow-on effects for the habitat of fish and game species as well as indigenous species. Reduced flows or water levels can cause increases in water temperature, which can be detrimental to sports fish reproduction.”

Renewable energy impact on waterways and wetlands

Renewable generation projects to dam rivers can have negative impacts on precious wetlands and waterways, the organisation says, adding that the Government should “ensure that renewable energy generation and electricity transmission is constructed and managed to deliver a “win-win” for both a low emissions economy and the natural environment.

“This includes requiring constraints mapping to identify landscape and ecological areas to avoid when looking at project feasibility for wind and solar.”

Representing anglers and hunters

Jordan says Fish & Game speaks directly for around 300,000 people and in any one year, 150,000 anglers and hunters hold licences from Fish & Game.

“Our advocacy also reflects the experiences and values of the 16% of New Zealanders who go fishing and seven percent who hunt,” she says.

“We value our relationship with government and policy-makers – a strong and enduring partnership is vital if we are to safeguard our freshwater habitats and species for future generations.

“We want to work with elected representatives and officials to ensure policies and regulations respect the value New Zealanders place on enjoying the great outdoors.

“This manifesto provides simple solutions to help meet this important goal and ensure a strong and healthy environment for all New Zealanders.”

To find the full manifesto, visit fishandgame.org.nz.

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