Fish and Game to be reviewed after chairperson voted out

1:33 pm on 1 May 2020

An independent review of Fish and Game New Zealand will be carried out, the Conservation Minister has confirmed.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage unveiled the Predator Free 2050 Strategy at Otari Wilton's Bush this morning.

Environment Minister Eugenie Sage is supporting the independent review. Photo: Rachel Thomas

The review follows concerns the organisation is no longer fit for purpose and comes as the long-standing chairperson of the Fish and Game Council, Lindsay Lyons, was last week ousted from his role in a surprise vote due to his support for an external review.

"I'm thrilled the Minister has now come out and said she is supporting a review. In my view it can't come soon enough," Lyons said.

He believes he was voted out because others on the council did not want the review to go ahead.

"There is resistance to change... but the current model is no longer fit for purpose."

The accounts of regional Fish and Game councils should also be forensically examined as part of any external review, Lyons said.

External audits of three Fish and Game councils over the last two years had highlighted governance and conflict of interest issues, and the Department of Conservation had also been looking into how the organisation could be improved.

Environment minister Eugenie Sage said a review was timely, given the impact Covid-19 could have on fishing and hunting licence revenues.

"My priority is to ensure that the governance functions of Fish and Game at the national and regional level are well supported and the organisation can undertake its statutory duties effectively."

The scope of the review was yet to be finalised and no one had been appointed to carried out out yet, she said.

The new chairperson Paul Shortis said he was looking forward to working with the Sage on the review.

Meanwhile, regional Fish and Game councils may have to pay back some of the $500,000 in wage subsidies they had received.

All 12 councils had applied for and received the scheme as they expected to experience a loss of income due to the virus, as fishing and hunting have been affected by the lockdown.

"The government's Wage Subsidy Scheme has been used to secure the income of regional staff against forecasted losses," a spokesperson said.

We will be re-assessing the actual loss and, if it is less than projected, the Governments Wage Subsidy Scheme will be repaid."