5 Feb 2019

Fisheries Minister defends MPI-run sector review

12:47 pm on 5 February 2019

The Fisheries Minister is defending his decision to have a review of the sector conducted by government officials, instead of making it an independent inquiry.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman.

Russel Norman Photo: Greenpeace

The review was announced yesterday, with the aim of better-protecting fish stocks and making punishments fit the crime for offenders.

But Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said the government should have stuck to its election promise and held an independent inquiry.

He said officials were too heavily influenced by the fisheries industry and his organisation was sceptical about the whole process.

"The idea was originally to have an independent inquiry, outside people, set up a proper inquiry under the Inquiries Act to look into the fisheries management system," he said.

"Instead, we've got one run by MPI itself which of course has been captured by the fishing industry for many, many years. They're the ones running the review instead of an independent inquiry."

Police Minister Stuart Nash.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Minister Stuart Nash said Dr Norman and Greenpeace's accusations were outrageous, insulting and an inquiry was simply not needed.

"There are some incredibly competent and very skilled people in Fisheries New Zealand, they are not captured by the industry and I find that comment actually quite outrageous."

Mr Nash questioned why an independent inquiry would be needed when there were knowledgeable, competent people within the ministry.

"Why set up another working group when actually we can do it through a series of public meetings, through a consultation document," he said.

"We have the skills to go out there and deliver meaningful results. We don't need an independent authority to do everything."

One of the country's largest fishing companies, Sanford, backed the review and said it was being done by the right people.

Sanford's chief operating officer Clement Chia said the decision was up to the government about whether it was a review or inquiry.

However, he was confident the process being undertaken would be transparent and help create sustainable fisheries.

"If MPI is working on it in consultation with industry and the rest of New Zealand I think you will probably find ... a good process that's transparent," he said.

"There's two sides to the story on everything ... I'm sure and what I'm keen - and what Sanford is keen - on is to move forward with a better transparent system the ensures fisheries that remain sustainable for everyone.

He said Sanford was in favour of on-board camera monitoring.

"It is actually away from sight and that's why we are as a company very supportive ... of cameras on board.

"Quite a few of our vessels have got the cameras fitted - all our deep water vessels have that on now. We would actually go tomorrow if we can.

He said they would pre-emptively add more cameras as a signal they want greater transparency.

"But we want to make sure that whatever we put in is fit for purpose ... we're talking about a lot of techincal issues here in terms of how much we're going to spend."

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