Minister's response to fishers 'lost in system'

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has apologised to the Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association after a letter to them "was lost in the system".

The association's immediate past-president Tony Orman said recreational sea fishers were "a mixed emotion of anger and dismay" at the failure of Guy to respond to letters sent to him eight months ago.

When the Marlborough Express asked Guy about the association's frustrations and why its letters had not been answered, the minister apologised, saying his reply to the association "was lost in the system". "I was told about this error today [Wednesday] and I want to sincerely apologise.

"I take their concerns seriously . . . this is a very important fishery."

He said he brought forward an independent scientific review to assess the health of the Marlborough Sounds blue cod fishery last year. It was important the science was finalised before any changes to the management regime were considered.

"It's also very important the community are involved in any changes. I will be writing to the Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association with an update shortly."

Orman said the group wrote to Guy at the end of August last year after a group visited him in Parliament to discuss concerns over recreational blue cod and set net rules and the precarious state of the Marlborough Sounds scallop fishery. They wrote again in October, and then in December, after which they got an acknowledgement but no substantive response to their concerns.

The association had been "extremely patient" but that had run out after eight months of government silence, Orman said.

"Time has shown we were too optimistic in calling for a quick solution and resolution. Sadly it shows a seemingly total disinterest by government in the shambles that unfairly discriminates against the recreational public, and in sensible, proper management."

. "We expect much much better from our elected representatives," he said.

"With an election less than twenty weeks away, this has become an election issue in the minds of the many recreational fishing families not only in Marlborough but places like Nelson, Christchurch and Wellington where bach owners reside."

However, Orman said the association was waiting until the major political parties issued their outdoor policies before deciding whether to take further political action.

He agreed some members of the association were active National Party members, but denied that was causing a conflict of interest or restricting any measure the association might take.

Members put aside their political affiliations at the association, he said, and he knew of at least one member whose political involvement meant he had good access to ministers where association concerns could be relayed.

The association's August letter urged Guy to abolish the slot rule for blue cod caught in the Marlborough Sounds, restore the bag limit to 4 or 5, abolish the transit rule, and close the Marlborough Sounds for all blue cod fishing during August and September, the suspected spawning period.

It also asked him to restore recreational set netting rights, 12 months a year, (same as commercial sector) and abolish the need for recreational fishers to remain with their nets (same as commercial sector), and to ban overnight set netting for all sectors.

The Marlborough Express