Wednesday, December 6, 2023

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Fish and Game extols clean rivers

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I had a most enlightening moment last week, so enlightening I sympathised with St Paul on his way to Damascus.
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It was a report from Fish and Game telling me what a great season we have in store.

It showed pristine rivers and told me there are good numbers of trout in lower North Island waters.

Surely not, they keep telling me what a pack of rampant polluters farmers are and how bad water quality is.

I considered the reports from other regions.

In Northland you can catch the limit within the hour.

Auckland and Waikato were preparing for a busy season opener.

In Hawke’s Bay we were told anglers are spoiled for choice when it comes to a stretch of river to fish on.

Taranaki staff told me local trout streams are in good condition.

All the rivers in Wellington look great.

In Canterbury there are more fish in the Ellesmere system and the lower Selwyn looks good with a large, clean flow.

In the central South Island most rivers are looking great.

Otago lakes and river mouths are crowded with fish.

I just felt humble that throughout the entire country rivers are pristine and fish stocks are great.

Farmers are to be congratulated on their environmental stewardship.

I was therefore surprised to receive an email from Fish and Game mouthpiece Martin Taylor urging me to get involved in the Government’s freshwater debate.

In an emotive rant, in my view, he tells me the Government proposals will go a long way to restoring waterways by curbing pollution.

But according to their reports there isn’t any pollution.

They’ve also established an anti-farmer website.

You can understand my confusion. 

When Fish and Game wants me to buy a licence, thus inflating its coffers everything is fine and dandy. Waters are pristine and fish are just asking to be caught.

Otherwise they go to extraordinary lengths to criticise farmers. 

Fact doesn’t necessarily enter the debate. Selective reporting, tilting the deck and emotion do.

I’m at a loss to understand why.

It gets worse.

Last month Stuff obliged Fish and Game with an offensive headline about a decade of dirty dairy offending. It had a photo of a besuited Martin Taylor standing by a stream that in Fish and Game’s preseason newsletters would be described as pure.

You can read how more than 200 convictions have been issued over 10 years.

Taylor believes that it is but a fraction of the real figure. If I were him I’d stay in the shallow end.

Shock and horror, with more than 10,000 dairy farmers that’s one for every 500 farmers.

I have several thoughts on the issue. The first is the selective morality of Fish and Game. 

Taupo is a significant fishery yet days of uncut sewerage pouring into the lake didn’t engender a response from Fish and Game.

The Queensland Lakes District Council wants a 35-year consent to let it pollute iconic Lake Wakatipu. The lake is a mecca for many trout fishers but nary a grunt from Fish and Game.

Their crocodile tears over swimming are somewhat contradictory considering 50 Auckland beaches aren’t swimmable and neither are beaches around Wellington, New Plymouth, Porirua or Nelson.

Quoting offences doesn’t mean a lot. How many were the result of equipment failure or extreme weather events.

Most outrageous in my view is Fish and Game’s involvement in a “research” project that claims the freshwater plan is unlikely to have major impact on the dairy industry.

That is despite the reputable New Zealand Initiative suggesting the freshwater plans will bankrupt farmers.

Another put the cost at a billion dollars.

Supporting all that, we have Fish and Game quoting “research” saying the relatively small size of the dairy industry means the impacts of the Government reforms are unlikely to be major at a national level.

So on one hand you have the dairy industry providing $17.6b in exports annually, employing more than 40,000 people and creating jobs faster than the rest of the economy. It is a large part of the economies of Southland, West Coast, Waikato, Taranaki, Northland and Canterbury.

On the other hand you have Fish and Game who make no contribution but is an old boys club compulsorily funded by those wanting to kill imported, predatory fish and ducks.

They charge excessively to be able to fund anti-farmer campaigns and “research” and do so with impunity.

If they are trying to solicit licence fees or union dues the rivers are pristine. 

Then, in moments of narcissism or paranoia, in my view, their alter-ego rebounds with polluted rivers caused by farmers.

They can’t have it both ways and the Government needs to start asking hard questions. In 2019 we shouldn’t have old boys clubs playing hard and loose with members’ funds and with absolutely no political accountability or oversight.

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