Fish & Game Wants Answers Over Taupo Trout Proposal
Fish & Game is meeting the Office of Treaty Settlements to get answers over a controversial proposal to allow Ngati Tuwharetoa to raise trout in Taupo’s existing trout hatchery facilities.
The Office of Treaty Settlements has confirmed the Crown and the Tuwharetoa Hapu Forum on behalf of Ngati Tuwharetoa have signed an agreement in principle to include trout as part of the settlement of Tuwharetoa’s outstanding Treaty of Waitangi claims.
The agreement in principle allows Tuwharetoa to use the Tongariro National Trout Centre to raise and harvest trout for consumption for “cultural purposes”. Tuwharetoa would also be allowed to train iwi members in trout rearing.
Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson says the proposals are disturbing and come as a complete surprise.
“Fish & Game is the primary manager and guardian of trout in New Zealand and yet we knew nothing of this proposal.
“It is disappointing that we only heard of what was happening through the grapevine. The fact there was no consultation is a basic lack of common courtesy and makes what has happened doubly offensive.
“There is potentially a lot more to this proposal than initially meets the eye.
“Fish & Game and recreational anglers are justifiably worried this is the thin end of the wedge to try and open the door to trout farming. The present law is that trout are not a commercial species and trout farming is specifically prohibited. That is the way it should stay.”
Mr Johnson questions the Office of Treaty Settlements’ statutory authority to even make such an offer.
“The Crown has little to do with trout and it is politically inflammatory to use them to settle its Treaty obligations. Anglers brought trout to this country, not the government, and generations of anglers have protected, managed and nurtured sports fish, paying for them from their own pockets.
“It would be a cruel irony that facilities and fish stocks built up with anglers’ own money ended up being used for an activity that anglers are fundamentally opposed to just to settle Treaty grievances against the government”, Mr Johnson said.
“That would be the ultimate slap in the face. The anglers of New Zealand are the ones out there doing the hard yards fighting to protect the environment and digging into their own pockets to ensure waterways are not polluted or drained”, Mr Johnson said.
Fish & Game is pursuing the issue with the Office of Treaty Settlements, DoC and the Conservation Minister.
“This is completely out of left field and just isn’t on”, said Mr Johnson.
“I have asked the Office of Treaty Settlements, DoC and the minister’s office for answers. Fish & Game has traditionally had a good track record of supporting the treaty settlement process but on face value, what the Office of Treaty Settlements is proposing is completely unacceptable.”
“The courts, all the way to the Court of Appeal, have already determined Maori have no Treaty-based statutory relationship with trout. Not only are trout a treasured recreational resource for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, but they also earn this country millions in tourism revenue”, he said.
Fish & Game will now be meeting the Office of Treaty Settlements to discuss the issue.