Uncertain future for fishing and hunting under Resource Management Act reforms
The proposed law to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA) heralds a major challenge to the future of freshwater fishing and game bird hunting, says Fish & Game New Zealand.
The Government’s Natural and Built Environment Bill (NBE) aims to create a new legislative framework for how New Zealand manages its natural environment, including freshwater, biodiversity and resources.
“While appropriately recognising Māori cultural values and indigenous species and industry, the Bill completely ignores the value all New Zealanders place on recreation and enjoyment of our great outdoors,” says Corina Jordan, chief executive of Fish & Game New Zealand.
“The Bill also removes the habitat protection of trout and salmon, which the RMA has long safeguarded because it has recognised both the national importance of these species and the reason why we need to protect their habitats – that’s to safeguard the habitat of all freshwater fish.
“Trout and salmon are considered the ‘canary in the coalmine’. They require healthy freshwater habitats to survive -- by safeguarding their habitats, we also protect the habitats of all other species.
“Ultimately, we believe these reforms will fundamentally strip Fish & Game’s ability to carry out our statutory duty to provide for the interests of anglers and hunters and to ensure freshwater habitats, including wetlands, are healthy and support trout, salmon and game bird populations.
“In many cases, Fish & Game is the last man standing in representing the public good in the fight to ensure New Zealand has a healthy environment and people can enjoy it.”
Fish & Game has launched an online campaign, Our Future, which encourages anglers, hunters and New Zealanders who enjoy the great outdoors to send their concerns about the Bill directly to the Government and Members of Parliament.
“There has been widespread concern about the Bill from both environmental and industry groups as well as mana whenua, but the Government is determined to forge ahead regardless and fast-track the highly contentious legislation through Parliament,” says Jordan.
“We are not satisfied with the reassurances from the Government and Environment Minister David Parker that anglers and hunters have nothing to fear.
“For example, anglers who want to have a say in how their favourite river is managed, such as during a consent process or regional plan, will be ignored because their values will not be reflected in the legislation.
“It will also mean that the presence of trout or salmon in an angler’s favourite river will be considered a threat to the health of that river, and changes to the waterway can be implemented such as significantly reducing waterflows and increasing pollution levels. No New Zealander wants this.
“We believe the Government’s reform of the RMA represents the thin edge of the wedge and will likely usher in further law changes threatening the future of hunting and fishing, the species we harvest for food and our critical role in managing these species and their habitats on behalf of New Zealanders.”
Among the changes Fish & Game is seeking is the reinstatement of the protection of the habitat of trout and salmon as a priority outcome and the recognition of recreational and enjoyment values for freshwater and the natural environment.
Fish & Game also wants recognition for the angling values for freshwater and a provision for meaningful participation for hunters, anglers and those that enjoy the outdoors in shaping how the natural environment is managed at a regional and catchment level.
“We can strive for ecological health outcomes, recognising that people are part of the environment,” says Jordan.