Long serving members farewelled with honour

Last Wednesday evening saw the first meeting of the Central South Island Fish and Game Council since the nationwide triennial elections.

Two new councillors came to the table and two long serving councillors who had clearly indicated they would not stand in the recent election were farewelled.

Thus the numbers balanced perfectly and no regional election was necessary.

Did this situation suggest that anglers and hunters in the Central South Island are satisfied with the focus and effort made by this council? It appears so.

There was plenty of opportunity for any angler or hunter to be nominated for election but only two chose to try and put something back into the sport they love.

From the public gallery on Wednesday evening it was clear that councillors wanted to continue their proactive programme as outlined in the Operational Work Plan (OWP), and this was further demonstrated when Gary Rooney, was re-elected as chairman unopposed.

The applause and the individual body language clearly indicated that councillors were unanimous in this decision.

Cr Matthew Hall was unanimously re-appointed to the New Zealand Fish and Game Council in Wellington, and this too signalled the solidarity and determination of the CSI Council to play its part in the national arena.

Rooney said he was extremely pleased to present a plaque to long serving councillors John Wilkie and Brian Hutton and thanked them for their efforts over the years.

"There are few civic minded citizens with a record as impressive as yours," he said of John Wilkie, noting that John had been continually involved as a councillor - initially on the Ashburton Acclimatisation Society Council since the early 1970s - long before amalgamation with South Canterbury Acclimatisation Society occurred and the subsequent devolution ordered by government to create the regional Fish and Game structure of today.

"There have been a lot of challenges and some keep arising," replied John.

"It's been the strength of the Acclimatisation Societies and more latterly Fish and Game that has maintained and enhanced the fishing and hunting opportunities in this region.

"Without the statutory authority of Fish and Game we might now have been facing further degraded rivers and flow regimes, and reduced bird numbers."

John is now spending considerable time on the wider issues of water quality and quantity and resource sharing through his involvement as a zone committee member and a member of the Tuia Group - a group with joint agreement with Ecan to discuss processes related to resource management issues.

"This, along with the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and Land and Water Forum attitude would suggest that we are at last seeing real progress being made."

By my calculation John has successfully completed 13 successive terms as a councillor.

There would be few who have served their community so diligently.

Brian Hutton was also honoured by the council for his diversity of salmon knowledge and to some extent, for the huge effort he made to bring Mackenzie Country issues to the table by attending Fish and Game meetings at Temuka.

Each meeting took at least four hours to travel from and back to Twizel and with some meetings in the early days of Fish and Game concluding as late as 2am he says the sleeping bag in the back of his vehicle was a necessity to avoid going to sleep at the wheel en route.

Brian said that in his nine years experience on the council [three-terms] he had seen quite a few changes.

"But with Russell Frank now here to represent the Mackenzie Country I feel it's a good time to retire.

"I am particularly pleased to see how Fish and Game has recognised the importance of hatchery operations and their contribution to the salmon resource in recent years.

I have witnessed the changes in fishing tackle and noted the way some anglers have responded to canal fishing with some concern that fishing pressure and sportsmanship sometimes provide their own challenges," he said.

During the past few years he has occasionally been domiciled at Milton and travelled to Temuka for meetings.

I call that dedication!

This week brings me great sadness to observe the passing of a long-time friend - Eric Davidson.

Eric was a stalwart for many years on the former South Canterbury Acclimatisation Society and he has for decades worked hard to address fish and game issues in this region.

I well recall his common saying at council meetings was . . . "just hang on a minute there . . ."

To which he then added his well thought out response to the situation at hand.

Listeners and thinkers like him are hard to find in today's rush and bustle of daily activities.

As a life member and long-time patron of the South Canterbury Angler's Club Eric had intimate knowledge of club resolutions and activities and his support will be sorely missed.

For some years Eric and his wife had a cottage at Cave and thus his knowledge of the Tengawai River fishery has been second to none.

But his favourite fishing spot was more probably Lake Alexandrina.

He will be missed by his many old friends who fished together over the decades.

His respect for others and his honesty will be long remembered.

The Timaru Herald