29 Jul 2014

Fish and Game continues pressure

9:43 am on 29 July 2014

Fish and Game says it will continue to call for the resignation of the Conservation Minister until he assures it he has no plans to stop its advocating for freshwater quality.

Nick Smith.

Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The organisation, which has statutory authority to advocate for fresh water, says Nick Smith threatened at a tense meeting on 18 July in Wellington to strip it of its mandate if it did not stop campaigning against the intensification of dairy farming.

Dr Smith has denied that he threatened Fish and Game with restructuring because of its advocacy for fresh water and released notes taken by one of his staff at the meeting.

The minister's office says he will not cut the income of Fish and Game or make any other change to prevent its campaigning over dairying.

But Fish and Game says it has not received that assurance from Dr Smith directly, and will not stop calling for his resignation until it does.

Two other freshwater advocacy groups, the Environmental Defence Society and Forest and Bird, oppose any such threat as Dr Smith has been accused of making, but said calling for his resignation was a step too far.

"I certainly don't think that Dr Smith should resign," Environmental Defence Society chairperson Gary Taylor said.

"I'd be dismayed if that happened, and I'm quite sure that the rest of the conservation movement would share my view.

"Dr Smith is one of the greenest ministers in the National cabinet and I hope he's there after the election."

Federated Farmers' dairy section chairman Andrew Hoggard told Morning Report Fish and Game should work with the industry should to improve dairy farms' environmental footprint instead of playing a blame game.

"There's a lot of farmers doing a lot of work and they probably trying to be proud of what they're doing and they're still getting hammered for this perceived 'dirty dairying'.

"I'd just like Fish and Game to be a little more constructive and helpful and look to work with us."