12 Aug 2019

'Metropolitan-based power culture' targeting fishing industry - Jones

2:21 pm on 12 August 2019

The Minister for Regional Economic Development has launched a stinging attack on urban liberals, accusing them of trying to take the fishing industry down.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, also Forestry Minister, Infrastructure Minister, Associate Finance Minister, Associate State Owned Enterprises Minister, Associate Transport Minister

Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones claimed there existed "metropolitan-based power culture" that wanted to damage the fishing industry. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Shane Jones was speaking to the annual meeting of Seafood New Zealand in Queenstown on Friday.

He said the attacks came from people who did not always understand what was at stake, and the industry had to fight back to protect itself.

Mr Jones said it was not just the fishing industry that was threatened, Māori who had invested much of their economic heritage in the business were threatened too.

"Those of us such as me as a Māori, who have our legacy interests via the treaty in the fishing industry, need to gird our loins and protect ourselves," Mr Jones said.

"Rest assured, there is a largely metropolitan-based power culture, which seeks to do damage to our industry."

Mr Jones said this was a very serious problem to people who had stored their full and final wealth from Treaty settlements in this industry.

He insisted the fishing industry had nothing to be ashamed of.

"We are a legitimate, we are a legacy, we are a profitable and internationally-reputable economic force, and let no one take that away from us."

Shane Jones' comments came in the wake of a series of attacks on the fishing industry by environmental lobbyists.

They have alleged over fishing, which depletes a resource, and a reckless attitude towards other species caught in fishing nets.

A fishing leader, Craig Ellison, in turn hit back at that criticism at the same conference.

Mr Ellison, who is chairman of Ngai Tahu Seafoods and executive chairman of Seafood New Zealand, said property rights were under attack from people who used social media to make emotional points.

"The conversation appears to have to have moved into the land of rhetoric, ideology, trolling and unsubstantiated opinion," he said.

"We respond with answers based on facts, science and deep evidence.

"But while we aim for the head, our opponents aim for the heart."

Mr Ellison then directed some criticism at the Government itself.

"The Labour Party seems to have taken a shift to the left, and seems to find it difficult to engage with the primary sector and with business."

Mr Ellison said his sector wanted to engage positively with the Government.

"We may be criticised by a vocal minority, but many depend on us for their livelihood and a great source of food, and that should be respected."

The Minister of Fisheries has been sought for a response to the comments.