The famous mismanaged Taupo Fishery
After the DoC Taupo Fishery Review three years ago, everyone considered the 175 page report and recommendations comprised an excellent and comprehensive summary overall and even though it confirmed the issues and mismanagement for many years, it also optimistically pointed the way forward.
It is sad DOC have chosen to ignore it – despite what they now belatedly claim. The public, particularly licence holders, have every right to ask questions about some obvious issues which involve the anglers.
Firstly it is important to be reminded of the reasons for the ten year review – introduced in the Executive Summary – the opening paras in italics confirm the importance of the fishery to Turangi.
The town of Tūrangi markets itself as the ‘Trout Fishing Capital of the World’, Taupō’s waterfront is home to a large trout sculpture to welcome visitors to the town, and the region is home to the Tongariro National Trout Centre near Tūrangi.
A study by APR Consultants, commissioned as part of this review process, has confirmed the importance of the Fishery to the economic and social wellbeing of the region, with an annual economic contribution of up to $29m per annum and close to 300 jobs dependent on it.
The Department of Conservation initiated this review process with several broad factors in mind, with the key trigger points being:
*Rethinking how the fishery is managed in the context of a renewed commitment from the Department to work with others to help New Zealand flourish socially, economically and environmentally (and for New Zealanders to benefit from that management); with
*Concerns from anglers and the wider community about the health of the fishery;
*Declining participation rates and licence sales.
So to pick on arguably their most important issue? The report Executive Summary ref 7 said:
Improved licensing options, better communication and more effective marketing of fishing opportunities in the region were all identified as aspects needing improvement. We confirmed that participation rates (like in many places) have steadily declined from a peak in the 1980’s, and most significantly there has been a 20% drop in license sales over the past five years.
So what have DOC done about increasing licence sales?
Nothing… Of course they will suggest their role is administration and management – but their own report confirms marketing is their responsibility?
Then the Exec Summary picks on :”Relationships”, i.e.
In particular we believe that there are obvious opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the Department’s relationships with Fish and Game (given they are in the same ‘business’). Currently the relationship appears to be disjointed and ‘competitive’ rather than collaborative. There are also opportunities to develop stronger relationships with the tourism and wider business sector in the region (for mutual benefit), and with the Lake Rotoaira Trust.
In the report re – “Levels of Participation” – the problems are clearly identified:
Overall, visitor arrival statistics for Taupō have declined slightly, falling 5.4% between 2000 and 2010. This was in contrast to New Zealand where guest arrivals grew by 22.6% during the same period.
(That is an interesting observation to confirm how poorly Taupo (and Turangi) has performed too.)
Total Taupō fishing licence sales decreased from 54,086 to 41,363 (ie, -23.5%), between the 2007/08 and 2011/12 seasons continuing a general downward trend in Taupō trout fishing licence sales over the past 24 years, since sales peaked at over 82,000 in the 1987/88 season.
The results of the Department’s survey showed that 66% of respondents’ primary reason for visiting Taupō was for fishing (note that the majority of respondents (86.9%) were Adult Whole Season licence holders and as such, this may be expected).
Anglers and licence holders
In respect of the relationship with anglers, we identified the need to greatly improve the interface they have with the Department.
Improved licencing options, better communication and more effective marketing of fishing opportunities in the region were all identified as aspects needing improvement. We confirmed that participation rates (like in many places) have steadily declined from a peak in the 1980s, and most significantly there has been a 20% drop in licence sales over the past five years.
Given the major economic and social contribution to the region from the Fishery, and given that it is licence fees that pay for fisheries management, this is a significant issue that needs considerable focus and attention.
This is one important issue they cannot deny or hide. In late May it was pointed out that the new DoC Facebook page – which was their answer to replacing the Target Taupo for improved and to update their communication with their angler base – had two entries for 2016 – back in January. Yet their October 2015 Target Taupo celebrated the success of their communications via Facebook? It was obviously prepared for Head office consumption and was an insult to anglers’ intelligence.
Some real irrefutable evidence of their neglect to communicate with their licence holders whilst claiming such success (communicating with their licence holders – anglers) on their Facebook?
From Page 12 of Target Taupo Issue 67 dated October 2015 – headed
“FACE[BOOK] TIME WITH TAUPO TROUT FISHERY”
The article was celebrating their success – claiming – quote: “Now that our Facebook page has been up and running for a year or two we are starting to get quite an audience, with more than 1500 followers.”
Really? So, just in case we are being unfair, check out DOC Taupo Fishery Facebook posts over the last 12 months:
August – 2 posts; September – 4 posts; October – 2; November – 4; December – 2.
January 2016 – 2; February – 0; March – 0; April – 0; May – 4. (Only started again after a complaint about their lack of posts); June – 3; July – 6; August – 6.
They only have 8 staff who must have been sooooo busy communicating with anglers.
As far as licences were concerned the recommendation in the study was clear and unambiguous – under the Increasing Participation heading:
b. Develop a national licence option;
They had the golden opportunity to do that when going on line with licence sales but clearly ignored it. i.e. Where is their marketing and communications plan? see their own recommendation – to:
a. Define and brand the full extent of the Taupō Sports Fishery;
b. Develop and implement a marketing and communications plan to raise the profile of the fishery nationally and internationally;
c. Initiate the development of a collective vision and a strategic plan for the Tongariro River to address the competing demands on the river and surrounding land.
You would imagine their Head Office or Taupo Council would be concerned?
If they get away with this they have proven they are accountable to no-one.
The perfect public service role.
To anglers, that is the real issue – such an important iconic tourist trout fishery should never be managed by a Government Department. It is a flawed model. They have proved it does not work.
All anglers – licence holders – prefer the Fish & Game model to fit in with the management and licensing for the rest of NZ trout rivers and lakes, where the fishery is managed by anglers – with a different sense of priorities – instead.
(Historical advertising posters from NZ Government Tourist Bureau – from when they realised and connected the importance of trout fishing to the growth of tourism…)