Nick’s right

Fish and Game have their lines snared over Conservation Minister Nick Smith:

Conservation Minister Nick Smith has been accused of bullying Fish and Game into ending its campaign for cleaner rivers and lakes.

The minister met with the Fish and Game Council in Wellington earlier this month where he was “deeply critical” of the organisation, says an attendee, Association of Freshwater Anglers president David Haynes.

Mr Haynes told NZ Newswire Dr Smith was “clearly displeased” about the Fish and Game’s current anti-irrigation billboard campaign calling for better water quality in the country’s lakes and rivers.

“He specifically cited those billboards as something he’s displeased with. The minister was firing a very clear warning shot across the bows of Fish and Game that ‘I don’t like that campaign, don’t be noisy and pull your necks in’.”

Mr Haynes said Dr Smith “also said we need to change the Fish and Game model. I have no idea what he meant by that… but it didn’t sound very friendly.”

Mr Haynes said he was highly insulted when Dr Smith told those present at the public meeting that the organisation “sometimes behaves like a rabid NGO, worse than Forest and Bird”. . .

Bullying is an over-used and in this case inappropriate word for what the Minister said.
If the organisation gets political, as it does, it can expect a political response.
Fish and Game does sometime behave like a rabid NGO.

The worst example in recent times was going to court against farmers and the government in an attempt to get unfettered access to farms under pastoral leases.

Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union says the Minister is right to give Fish and Game a serve:

“We agree with the Minister that the election campaigning of Fish and Game is a gross breach of faith for a statutory body.”

“If a group of fishermen want to create an offshoot of the Green Party good on them – but they should pay for campaigning out of their own pocket not use statutory powers to charge for licences to fund political lobbying.”

“Nick Smith is right to be concerned that Fish and Game use its fishing tax to fund billboards endorsing the Green Party. Until Fish and Game put an end to taxpayer funded political campaigning, it should not be entitled to receive income from compulsory fishing and hunting licenses.”

However, the Minister refutes the claims made by Haynes:

. . . “The claims about what I said at the meeting are untrue. I am releasing these hand-written notes taken at the time by the departmental official from DOC’s head office responsible for Fish & Game who was at the meeting. His account is very different from that of Mr Haines, and is an accurate account of what was discussed. The notes are exactly as they were taken down at the time before any controversy arose,” Dr Smith says.

“Mr Haines is a long-time critic of me as Conservation Minister, most recently over 1080. He is not neutral and his deliberate misrepresentation of the meeting is driven by politics and the election season. I am taking legal advice over his statements. I have been a long-term advocate for improving New Zealand’s water quality, including putting in place New Zealand’s first National Policy Statement on Freshwater, and I find his statements offensive and defamatory.”

The notes are here and what they say the Minister said looks very reasonable to me.

I’d back the Minister  and his staff’s notes over Haynes whose outburst will have done nothing to help relationships with many of those who fund his organisation.

Fish and Game is funded by a tax on fishing and hunting licences.

Many of those who pay that tax are farmers who are incensed at the organisation’s blinkered and one-sided approach to issues and what isn’t just political campaigning but partisan political campaigning.

14 Responses to Nick’s right

  1. Mr E says:

    I’ve never been so proud of National as right now. After reading this.


  2. Roger Barton says:

    You’ve got to love Fish and Game. One minute they are telling us what an appalling state our water ways are in BUT as the trout fishing season nears they start to tell us that the season is looking good and that fish numbers are on the up. Hard to have it both ways but they try hard to do just that.


  3. Mr E says:

    This year I found a solution. Don’t buy a licence. Don’t go out. Such is the distaste I have for fish and game.
    First time I ever recall not being a licence holder. To me it is a shame that I have had to go to such lengths. I simply could not keep supporting an organisation that continually burnt bridges. Now they are trying to do it with the Government. We shall see how that plays out for them.


  4. Lindsay says:

    Rarely have I ever read such utter bollocks as this blog.
    F&G is a totally license holder funded organisation which receives NO GOVERNMENT FUNDING! As a journalist I would hope you would check for facts but thus is clearly beyond you.

    Successive governments have failed to provide leadership on the issue of water usage and ownership, leaving it to oranisations like F&G to ensure the public has a voice.

    Farmers might be the backbone of the economy but they don’t have exclusive access to usage of the water resource to the exclusion of others!


  5. homepaddock says:

    No-one said F&G is government funded. The post makes it quite clear it’s funded by licence fees. These are in effect a tax on those who purchase hunting and fishing licences.

    No-one has said farmers have exclusive access to water.

    This government has provided leadership through the Land and Water Forum (LawF) and setting minimum standards. That leaves it up to the communities who use the water, and would pay for improvements, to decide if they want improvements.


  6. Mr E says:

    Funny stuff.


  7. Paranormal says:

    Lindsay, you should have a closer look at what you have written if you want to see utter bollocks.

    “leaving it to oranisations like F&G to ensure the public has a voice.” It is licence holders that F&G should be representing if anyone. Suggest you have a look at: and the comments that follow.

    They have certainly failed as a membership organisation to represent their members, preferring to take an activist approach similar to the Forest & Bird extremists.


  8. Lindsay says:

    Given that Key has clearly told Nick “loose cannon” Smith to shut has trap on this matter it’s fairly clear F&G has made a valid point.

    F&G’s advocacy on this matter is representing the interests of licence holders. If waterways continue to be degraded (from any activities) then licence holders will be amoungst the most affected by the degradation of habitat.

    Why does the rural sector persist in thinking it shouldn’t be as accountable for the environment as any other industry?


  9. Roger Barton says:

    Lindsay my view is that F and G have excess power. If I have a crop that ducks are destroying at the seedling stage (quite common with brassicas in the two leaf stage) I have to apply to F and G for an “authority to disturb”. So on one hand we are told that we aren’t doing enough to be carbon efficient and climate change friendly then we have to fight to protect our crops. Doesn’t make much sense to me. At times they have sent an aged shooter to deal to them but their focus is to just “move them on”. That doesn’t work I assure you.


  10. TraceyS says:

    “Why does the rural sector persist in thinking…”

    Flawed thinking there. Industries and sectors don’t “think” – individuals within them do. And they don’t all think and behave the same. That’s why taking up a strong position against an industry or sector is a bad idea. Disenfranchises everyone who cares.


  11. Lindsay says:

    Good one Tracey! When faced with a logical agreement resort to semantics!!


  12. Paranormal says:

    Lindsay have you read the earlier posts linked above?

    F&G have stepped beyond advocacy and into the realms of activism. You are also using the activists dirty farming meme when it is farmers who are doing a lot of the work for F&G in recreating wetlands/habitat for wildlife on behalf of F&G. F&G then dumping on their stakeholders will only have an adverse affect on the environment and F&G’s long term survival/capability. Have a look at the close ties between F&G and the ‘tree good/people bad’ Forest & Bird activists and you’ll start to get an understanding of why long term F&G supporters are walking away from them.

    There is no doubt Nick is a dick (a relative of mine was his press secretary and coined the phrase decades ago), but he’s on the right track with this issue.


  13. Mr E says:

    Lindsay- Tracey is right.
    You use rhetoric to blame sectors when individuals are the problem.

    The reality is that river water quality is overall improving. And if anything we should be saying – well done New Zealanders, you have improved water quality.

    F&G appear to ignore this – instead using bully tactics like the Dirty Dairy campaign to affect farmers.
    I am disappointed by such tactics. Rather than drive a wedge, I believe a more appropriate action is to work with the farming sector to look for opportunities to growth. Some of their staff do this well. But the politics of the organisation will limit their effectiveness.

    Nearly every farmer I have met has an impressive environmental understanding, trying to label the entire sector as polluters simply creates a fight.


  14. TraceyS says:

    It’s pretty hard for players to be well thought of when their industry as a whole is being slanted. I could name another industry that has experienced many years of this and it causes them to ‘insulate’. This is no good when we most need transparency.


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