In addition to surviving another dreary general election here and elsewhere, TRM inmates and other fresh water anglers appear more interested and are bracing for changes in their own industry during troubled times.
One recent social media post claimed that fly fishing is enjoying a renaissance in USA with certain tackle shops and suppliers unable to keep up with demand. (Perhaps a reaction from covid lockdowns?)
Evidence of this could be in that cute little tourist town of Turangi, still bravely claiming to be the Trout Fishing Capital of the World, after a fourth fishing tackle shop has opened. But this is entirely against the recent trend of high street retail shops everywhere closing down after losing market share to online traders. Turangi now has more tackle shops for trout fishing than Taupo or Auckland. Could this be the first sign of a local revival in the noble art of fly fishing?
In NZ generally the stats do not support that. In the latest Fish & Game Issue 51, an article by Martin Taylor, Chief Executive of the Fish & Game Council, provides the sobering historic facts of a steady decline, confirmed by licence sales – quote:
“The number of freshwater anglers is falling as a percentage of the population. In 1990 there were 3.3 million people living in this country and F&G sold 60,855 full-time fishing licences. In 2018-19 that had changed to 64,900 full-time licences…. etc. As a conservative estimate on 1990 figures, we should be selling about 11,000 more full-time licences.”
The current state of the trout fishing “industry” (beyond Taupo region) is being investigated in a review by two independent experts who are to report back to the Conservation Minister (hopefully there will be a change after the general election?) before Christmas. This is reported as being a health check on F&G’s governance. They have now been in existence, unchanged for thirty years, with 12 separate regions employing about 70 staff overseen by up to 144 “governors” (that is how he labelled them).
Anglers are naturally a suspicious species who have suggested they may have another agenda which will only become apparent next year. Some anglers have even commented this review could be an attempt by DOC to take over F&G? Only time and the new Minister of Conservation will tell.
As such, it is useful to compare what happened after DOC’s own “Taupo Fishery Review” in 2013: “A study by APR Consultants, commissioned as part of that review process, 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”.
Back in 2013 their Taupo survey reported comparable decreased levels of participation:
Total Taupō fishing licence sales decreased from 54,086 to 41,363 (-23.5%), between the 2007/08 and 2011/12 seasons. Behind this movement was a decrease in sales in excess of 20% for every type of licence over the five year period.
Adult Season Licence sales declined the most of all licence types, with an average annual growth rate of negative 8%. This was a decrease from 12,065 licences sold in 2007/08 to 8,650 in the 2011/12 season.
These movements continue a general downward trend in Taupō fishing licence sales over the past 24 years, since sales peaked at over 82,000 in the 1987/88 season. etc…….
“The goal needs to recognise the multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary nature of fishery management and focus on three key elements – managing and enhancing the sports fish resource, working effectively with anglers and increasing participation in fishing, and developing strong partnerships with others to optimise the environmental, social and economic benefits for the Taupō region and beyond.” and went on to comment: “anglers are frustrated with what they see as their negligible influence on management.”
In respect of relationships with F&G they reported: 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)…
In respect of the relationship with anglers they reported: 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.
Taupo anglers were initially encouraged by all their review recommendations which were then sadly shelved and ignored. i.e. In relation to the existing licencing system, they recommended:
a. Put in place an on-line system in close collaboration with Fish and Game;
b. Develop a national licence option.
Develop and implement a marketing and communications plan to raise the profile of the fishery nationally and internationally; and
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.
Such recommendations appear to have been ignored. Another of the main concerns was that anglers only mechanism for contributing to management through TFAC (Taupo Fishery Advisory Council) was not effective, but, seven years later, that has not changed. i.e. The Taupo survey commented:
What we also heard was that neither TFAC members nor the Department view the advisory mechanism as working effectively at present. TFAC does not operate in the same way as fish and game councils (who have a clear role and set the management priorities in their respective regions on behalf of licence-holders), mainly because its functions are purely advisory. Comments on its functions included ‘it is advised, not advisory’, and ‘it doesn’t seem to have any teeth’.
We also heard comments that TFAC’s membership (prescribed by regulation) does not represent anglers generally (with a strong emphasis given to local angling and boating clubs as opposed to visitors or independent anglers); and that Ngāti Tūwharetoa, despite having a dedicated place on TFAC, has not attended meetings for over a decade. This is, broadly, because they have not seen value in the position.
Finally, but importantly, there do not appear to be any structured links between TFAC and the governance and statutory decision-making processes.
We heard concern from anglers that they did not have a good picture of where their licence fees were being spent, and concern that the Department’s processes for allocating administrative costs (primarily the capital charge on the Crown’s assets, depreciation, rent, computers and the like) were not transparent.