ROUND THE TRAPS WITH THE NZFFA
LOCAL GOVERNMENT WINS AND LOSSES
Freshwater featured strongly in the recent local government elections; Fish & Game’s Rod Cullinane was elected as an Environment Canterbury Councilor, along with other noted freshwater advocates Lan Pham and local farmer Peter Scott. The Government has yet to name its own appointments and along with the Ngai Tahu representatives they may weaken any attempts to change the current regime of gross over-allocation, over-pollution and under-regulation – but this is a massive win for freshwater and our game fishing heritage.
Meanwhile over in the Waikato a lesson in human behaviour is emerging. The much vaunted collaboration process was championed by the Minister for the Environment in 2013 as an important process to enable the National Policy on Freshwater Management. Borne out of the Land and Water Forum was a vision that, rather than have expensive fights in the Environment Court after regional plans were proposed, competing freshwater interests would be selected by local councils and stuck in a room to thrash out a regional plan which would be a win-win for the economic and environmental attributes of our rivers and lakes. This collaboration concept sounded good –jointly agree a plan before it’s written rather than fight about it afterwards, but environmental advocates are, and always will be hamstrung in such shows simply because:
- They have no money.
- Their time is given voluntarily and so is valuable as it is non-income generating.
- They are selected by Councils whose development interests sometimes influencewho is picked.
- They are a minority round the table.
The Waikato Regional Council’s Collaborative Stakeholder’s Group is a case in point. The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers nominated a representative, as we have done for other such similar council-led groups, but were told, once again, “no” as our interests would be accounted for under their “tourism and recreation” representative”, Alistair Calder, a chap who runs an international tours company! All up, the CSG comprised six farming interests (including a paid lawyer), one environmental, one tourism, one energy, one industry, one water take supply, one local government and three Maori representatives. Two years later and they come up with Plan Change 1 which sets out a strategy to make the Waikato and Waipa rivers swimmable. The key points are:
- Land use changes will now require a resource consent.
- Every farm over 20 hectares will have to develop a Farm Environment Plan.
- All such farms will need to baseline their nitrogen discharges using OVERSEER.
- This baseline will determine the maximum allowable nitrogen discharge from that
- The top 25% worst nitrogen-leaching farms will be obliged to reduce such leaching to the highest leach levels of the remaining 75%.
- Stock will be excluded from waterways between 2023 and 2026.
- It will take 10 years to measure everything and 80 years to implement.
Many see this as “grandparenting” N levels – whatever you leached before you can carry on leaching. Waikato Regional Councilors prefer the term “holding the line”. And what is the result of the collaborative win-win process where farming had the majority voice? They decided it is wrong and have formed a lobby group, PLUG, to fight the outcome. Not only have they written to most of the Government’s Cabinet suggesting the Waikato economy will grind to an ignoble halt, Federated Farmers have been given $30,000 by the Council to come up with some alternatives.
Their beef (no pun intended) is that low leaching pastoral beef and lamb farms will be constrained by their historical N leaching levels compared to existing dairy farms whose N levels are much higher and thus give much wider latitude for alternate land uses. One might conclude from this that many drystock farmers in the region want at some point to allow their land to be intensively farmed, or why else would it be an issue? There are other complaints as well principally relating to the practicalities of fencing off waterways on hilly land.
I guess the point is that collaboration inevitably leads to unacceptable compromises for all – we can have swimmable rivers, but in 80 years time when we’ll all be long gone. That nitrogen leaching will be capped, but at existing levels that have caused the degradation of the rivers in the first place, and that cleaning up our pollution will inflict proportionally less pain on big polluters and punish those with low emissions disproportionately. Given Plan Change 1 only addresses nitrogen and stock exclusion, it is likely that there will be at least equal troubles when it comes to setting rules on phosphorus, pathogens and sediment.
So what is the alternative to these highly orchestrated processes? Get out and vote for your freshwater interests – specifically the 50% -60% of you who couldn’t be bothered this time round!
David Haynes – President NZFFA
Standing at my local river the other day, with the fish not biting and the sun shining, I fell into conversation with a couple of anglers and the topic turned to the Rise Film Festival which recently showed in Nelson. We were talking about how saltwater fly fishing predominated the films shown and we all agreed how it can sometimes be preferable to trout fishing for many reasons including:
1. It is usually hot and sunny and there is a beach.
2. the missus and kids like to come along too, albeit this can cut both ways.
3. the surprise of not knowing which species you might hook into.
4. there are some seriously big fish out there.
5. It is free, other than the not inconsiderable cost of specialised tackle.
6. There is usually plenty of room for everyone, except at Golden Bay since those trendy young bucks in their buffs, fingerless gloves and Sage shirts felt compelled to skite, tweet, facebook and commercially exploit it, but that’s another story.
The idea of capacity of a fishery is the important point here. We have all experienced someone getting to the river before us and having to find another stretch, particularly brown trout rivers where fish numbers are low. Overseas anglers seem to be arriving earlier in the season when they previously seemed to be concentrated throughout January and February and anglers are arriving at rivers ever earlier to “bag their spot”. One of my local rivers has some anglers getting there at seven in the morning and opening day on rivers such as the Oreti and Goulter have anglers esconced in huts up to three days prior to opening!
Now for the bad news. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Longest Departmental Name Ever issued a report in Augist 2016 recognising that our tourism infrastructure cannot cope with increasing tourist numbers – from three million in 2015 and forecast to rise to four and a half million by 2022, including of course anglers. Coupled with this increased angling pressure is a diminishing fishery – we’re not making any more rivers but are doing a good job of destroying them with two thirds of our lowland rivers too polluted to swim in and river levels continue to be reduced below life supporting capacity by rapacious irrigation. With more anglers competing for less places to fish how will things be in ten or twenty years time? Will we suffer the curse of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands where Lonely Planet devotees flock to make them substantially less lonely and whose subsequent decline in popularity is caused by too many tourists? (TRM would add that this problem is not applicable to the Tongariro where licence sales have fallen by half in the last 12 years.)
Currently, our tools to control over-fishing and over-use are confined to Controlled Fisheries such as the Greenstone River – anglers must book a date and stretch of river knowing they will have it to themselves and that the river will have been rested a day or two prior. Given the Government’s proclivity for unabated expansion, they are reluctant to sanction controlled or closed fisheries however. Some members of the The NZ Professional Guides Association are proposing the notion that non-resident anglers might only be allowed access to our more noted back country fisheries if accompanied by an NZ licenced guide and the NZ Outdoors Party is looking even further ahead by floating the idea of a non-resident licence lottery. The concept is that all overseas anglers would apply to a limited pool of licences each of which limits how long they may fish for, as a way to both control and dissipate angling pressure, particularly across our premium back country rivers.
The thought of rules, restrictions and regulations is highly unpalatable to the average Kiwi angler, after all didn’t our forefathers establish our trout fishery precisely to escape from that sort of carry on in the UK? But the numbers implore that we can’t carry on with our laissez-faire management for another ten or twenty years – 49 million anglers in the USA, 6 million anglers in the UK and the China Angling Association estimating the number of Chinese anglers at 91 million!
Maori-Pakeha neighbours win NZ Rivers Award for restoring the Waitao
A member of group that has just won the New Zealand Rivers Award for its work restoring the Waitao River in the Bay of Plenty believes clean, green New Zealand could be a reality if more Maori and Pakeha worked together.
Seven Sharp reported the Waitao-Kaiate Care Group has planted more than 20,000 native trees along the banks of the river and meet every two weeks to pot more plants.
And thanks to the power of persuasion by the group, most farmers are no longer grazing their stock near the river.
At just 12 kilometres long, the Waitao isn’t New Zealand’s biggest river, but it means a lot to those who live near it.
“It’s a part of our lineage, our whakapapa and it’s our foodbasket,” said Hinenui Cooper of Kaitiaki.
At Tahuwhakatiki Marae, Ms Cooper has been testing the water for the last 10 years and said she’s doing it for the next generation.
Over time, phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the water have dropped, water quality has improved and some species of fish have returned.
Ms Cooper said they now get enough fish to feed hundreds of people at the marae, “and that’s telling you something” about the river’s improvement.
According to the Environment Ministry, 62 per cent of New Zealand rivers aren’t safe to swim in, let alone drink from or eat fish from.
But Ms Cooper reckons if more Maori and Pakeha could work together, as they have on the Waitao, clean, green New Zealand could be a reality.
“What do we have if we can’t enjoy our waterways? Not a heck of a lot. Swimming pools? No thank you. Fish markets? No thank you!”
The campaign is not yet won, as children with scratches who swim in the Waitao still risk coming out with sores, and the iconic Kaiate Falls at the head of the river remain closed to swimmers.