Fish and Game faces problem of ‘ageing’ membership
One of the country’s biggest recreational organisations is facing the prospect of declining revenue due to an ageing membership and lack of interest from younger people, and requires “active intervention”, a major report says.
Fish and Game New Zealand, which represents all of the country’s hunters and anglers, has received a report from analysts Doughty Consulting which raises concerns including reduced leisure time, and the changing values of the younger generation.
“There is currently a trend of reducing revenue from local licence sales and declining participation as a percentage of population in both fishing and hunting,” the report says.
“This trend, unless corrected, will ultimately impact on Fish and Game NZ. No organisation can sustain reducing revenue with static or increasing costs.”
“Critical to any organisation is knowing your customers … a licence may be the actual item purchased, however, the product Fish and Game is selling is the experience, tradition and heritage of angling and bird hunting in New Zealand.”
The report says the ageing of licence-holders is a significant threat.
“Low participation in the younger age group and a predominantly older group falling off as each year goes on points to a looming problem that cannot be ignored.”
“As a percentage of the population, Fish and Game’s participation is in decline,” the report says. “It is likely this trend will continue unless active intervention occurs.”
The report suggests a rebranding of the organisation, particularly its reputation for being elitist.
“There is a proliferation of imagery across all media in New Zealand of big fish, remote destinations and people with expensive fly-fishing gear dominating fresh water fishing. This tells a story of inaccessible fishing requiring elite skills, which is not the true picture and one that needs breaking down. Minimal skill should be the new mantra.”
The report proposes rolling out a smartphone app or digital licence that could provide GPS-driven access of key fishing spots, how to fish, and regulatory information in order to make success and compliance easier.
It also suggests capitalising on its reputation of being champions of the environment by creating a “Friends of Fish and Game”-type organisation which would target people supportive of the organisation but not necessarily licence-holders.
However, there was also a call to focus on “recruitment, retention and reactivation” of current and past licence-holders.
“Changing any culture begins with the language … campaigns are effective and can run alongside enduring messages that underpin the whole organisation.”
“I would like to see a focus on recruitment. We know that if we get young people fishing at a young age then they’ll come back to it in later life,” Taylor said.
“We also need to understand why some licence-holders are leaving. We have got to protect the experience.”
Taylor said Fish and Game NZ was not at crisis point, but there would be challenges in increasing membership.
Taylor said there was a need to understand why there was “churn” in licence holders. It was assumed that many hunters and anglers were not getting the same experience from the high country due to environmental degradation.
The report would be sent to all Fish and Game councils in the country, and a strategy would be developed from there, he said.