The tourist fishing business has been so quiet recently, I found time to re-read some of TRM’s library of fishing books. A favourite Taupo author O. S. Hintz wrote the “Trout at Taupo” in 1955 and a sequel, “FISHERMAN’S PARADISE” in 1975. In the Introduction by Viscount Cobham suggests ‘Budge’ Hintz is worthy to be regarded as the Izaak Walton of New Zealand. We concur.
In the author’s note at the start he writes: “I make no apology for having introduced into the following pages certain aspects of angling politics….. anglers and other conservationists have been forced to enter the dusty arena of politics… etc.” Fifty years later, nothing has changed. Now TRM can no longer resist entering the arena of politics as it is a matter of survival when the Covid lockdowns have crippled many local small businesses.
He wrote how Taupo fishing is not what it used to be although most anglers would still class it “superlatively good”. He postulated that sooner rather than later every true trout fisherman becomes at heart a conservationist. At that stage, he must be prepared to do battle not only with engineers, the property developers, commercial exploitation, and the ‘improvers’ of the landscape, but also with the bureaucrats. Regular Tongariro fishos who are readers of TRM blogs might confirm that we have followed his example fifty years later. The importance of these “water issues” cannot be over-stated. Apathetic anglers cannot afford to continue to give in to political selfishness and council engineers neglect.
Back then he wrote: “The biggest question mark of all hangs over the largest and most productive tributary to the whole Taupo system, the Tongariro River.” Then it was the scene of a gigantic plumbing operation that diverted water away from the river into Lake Rotoaira to fuel the Tokaanu Power Station turbines. Back then the effects of the reduced flow on the Tongariro were unpredictable.
It is almost impossible to impress Wellington grey suits of the likely impacts of any conservation threats to river fisheries, such as trout farming or irrigation or power projects or their failed flood protection works. To try to convince the bureaucrats of the importance of the Tongariro fishing, Hintz was forced to follow what he referred to as the “American approach”, to convert everything to simple $$$ so they might understand the economic importance of what they threaten to destroy.
I am sure the Prime Minister (and her TV fishing guru fiance?), and DOC (in their role as Taupo fishery managers), will appreciate TRM’s budgeting exercise, as so far there has been no indication anywhere of what is at stake or lost by their continued lockdowns. After anxiously and optimistically waiting for about 20 months for some inspiring indication, typically we have to eventually calculate it ourselves.
First, obviously, this is a very arbitrary exercise. I do not pretend to be an economist more familiar with reducing everything to dollar terms. The fact is, even though I think it is a deplorable exercise, I could not resist the challenge. I doubt I can summon up the statistical passion of the Americans or Government boffins or DOC, as I do not believe it is possible to calculate the extraordinary benefits and pleasures derived from trout fishing in a cash flow on a balance sheet. But this exercise has to start somewhere by applying top-of-the-head fishy stuff without reference available to any up-to-date Taupo fishery stats, to try to prove the immense value at risk, of the value of the Taupo fishery to the local economy.
The only economic analysis referred to – see below – was “Taupo: A Treasury of Trout” based on the 1982-83 fishing season. Ironically, the preface for that publication was by the Patron of the North Island Wildlife Conservancy Council, O. S. Hintz CMG. He confirmed that the economic analysis: “establishes beyond any doubt the importance of the Taupo Fishery as a national asset, internationally recognised.”
Back then the estimated total expenditures and capital values of private assets resulting from anglers’ 1982-83 fishing activities in the Taupo district were:
Expenditure $16.7 million (average angler $370).
Capital value $112 Million (= $2,493 per angler).
For the 1982-83 season the estimated business activity generated within Taupo was:
Total turnover of all businesses combined $10.8 million (average $57,447 per business).
Total profit $1.4 million (average $7,447 per business).
Total capital value $23 million (average $122,340 per business).
Total employment 244 (average 1.3 per business).
The date is also relevant as since then the Taupo fishery was hardly promoted at all and relied more on a rusty reputation from when Zane Grey praised it almost 100 years ago. Since then, more recently the team at DGLT (Destination Great Lake Taupo) have tried to correct the neglect and have effectively re-promoted Taupo as “The Trout Fishing Capital of the World” again. Unfortunately, this coincided with Covid lockdowns which prevented most annual licence holders from being able to travel to Turangi.
From licence sales (which have sadly steadily reduced over the last twenty years) we have adopted an estimate of some 40,000 anglers fish annually at Taupo, devoting an average of twenty days a year to their fishing. Remarkably, coincidentally, perhaps predictably, these numbers are the same as used by Hintz about fifty years ago. But since then we need to factor in the huge inflationary trends to reflect the costs of enjoying this wonderful “hobby”. For accommodation, transport, licence costs, food, incidentals, a very conservative daily rate of $370 has been applied – this has to be conservative as it is the same as used in the analysis of the 1982 season.
On that basis, TRM’s simple arithmetic estimate of the economic annual value of the Taupo Fishery (at risk since the Government imposed lockdowns) is calculated at $370 per angler/day x 20 days per year x 40,000 licences = wait for it…
$296,000,000 p.a. – which has to suggest a total value at risk of around
That has to be worth fighting to protect.
So now you know…