New role chance to fix blue-cod issues

HUGH SHIELDS
Last updated 14:21 31/01/2013

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It was ironic that at 11.37am on Tuesday last week I received an email from the private secretary for fisheries and aquaculture.

It read: "On behalf of Hon David Carter, Minister for Primary Industries, thank you for your email regarding the newspaper article and survey What the Fishers Think. Please be assured your comments have been noted. I will place a hard copy of your email before the minister for his information."

Clearly the private secretary had not been briefed on the prime minister's Cabinet reshuffle announced the same day, in which David Carter was appointed to the role of Speaker of the House, making way for Nathan Guy to take over the role of minister for primary industries.

By default, this makes Mr Guy the new "minister of fishers" responsible for the blue-cod recreational fishing rules in the Marlborough Sounds.

He will be the fourth minister to assume this responsibility, after Labour's Jim Anderton, who closed the fishery on October 1, 2008, based on the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's 2007 survey; Phil Heatley, who reopened the fishery on April 1, 2011, with the current regulations, including the "slot" fishery, just in time for the general election; followed by Mr Carter, who adopted a "steady as you go" approach and locked in the current management until 2015.

Mr Carter will be remembered for being almost impossible to get an appointment with, although the Marlborough Recreational Fishers did achieve this once during his brief tenure, and for being the minister in charge when the Environmental Protection Authority granted New Zealand King Salmon four new salmon farms.

One of the complaints recreational fishermen have always voiced is the inaccessibility of fisheries ministers and the revolving door policy, which means ministerial appointees change with regular monotony, making it impossible to build a relationship with the incumbent.

However, every ending signals a new beginning and with this new appointment comes a fresh opportunity.

Mr Guy is a popular MP in his Otaki electorate, which combines the districts of Horowhenua and Kapiti.

He has always been very approachable and a "people's person". It will be interesting to see whether, in his new role of minister for primary industries, he maintains that approachability or is swallowed up in the role.

The Otaki electorate has two marine reserves adjacent to Kapiti Island and just outside the southern boundary of the electoral boundary lies Mataitai reserve at Paekakariki, so Mr Guy would be well aware of the high level of public support for the formation of no-fishing areas and the positive effects they have on increasing the size and abundance of fish in adjoining areas.

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Mr Guy's farming background should help him apply sound farming practices to the protection and management of the best blue-cod breeding stock.

He might just be the man to apply a common-sense approach to a review of the blue-cod regulations. Let's hope so.

What fishermen and Sounds users need to do to capitalise on this appointment is let Mr Guy know where they stand by completing the What the Fishers Think survey being undertaken by Victoria University PhD student Alyssa Thomas.

To complete the survey, email Alyssa.Thomas@vuw.ac.nz or go to the link vuw.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV-6AuY3AasfpKRmMR. This is your opportunity to send a clear message to the new minister.

Hugh Shields is a blue-cod management lobbyist. He is based in Wellington but is a regular visitor to the Marlborough Sounds.

- The Marlborough Express

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