Designated Waters Licence Proposal

Fish & Game New Zealand is seeking feedback from licence holders on a proposed new licence category - the Designated Waters licence.


Designated Waters Licence Survey results are available here.

DJI 0529AOver the past ten years, Fish & Game has received an increasing number of complaints from anglers regarding overcrowding on a small number of fragile fisheries. Unsustainable angling pressure on these fisheries detrimentally affects both the angling experience (sense of wilderness feeling/solitude) and trout behaviour (visibility and catchability). Fish & Game have termed these fisheries ‘pressure sensitive fisheries’.  

In most cases, pressure sensitive fisheries share these common features: 
·        Almost exclusively rivers 
·        Clear water
·        Excellent sight fishing 
·        Large average size of fish 
·        High scenic value
·        Often in a wilderness or backcountry setting
·        Located in the South Island
·        High levels of non-resident angler use

Pressure sensitive fisheries are highly regarded by both resident and non-resident anglers for the unique angling opportunities they provide. However, research and monitoring of these fisheries has shown that both resident and non-resident anglers are being displaced from these fisheries because of overcrowding.

Resident anglers are being displaced from these fisheries to a greater degree than non-resident anglers, and for some fisheries, angler use has gone from a roughly 50/50 resident-to-non-resident split (in the early 2000s) to an 80/20 usage split favouring non-resident anglers.

To manage the angling pressure and experience on these pressure sensitive fisheries it has become necessary to implement fisheries management mechanisms to control crowding and disperse angling pressure. The Designated Waters Licence is a mechanism that is being proposed as a tool to reduce crowding on a select few pressure sensitive fisheries.

In total we estimate these waters comprise fewer than 2% of available fisheries, meaning that this new licencing system will only be applied to a very small proportion of fisheries. For anglers not fishing in these locations, there will be no impact.

How will designated waters licencing work?

The Designated Waters Licence will work differently for resident and non-resident anglers.

For resident anglers, if they want to go fishing in a fishery that is classified as a Designated Water, they would be required to:
a)    hold a whole-season licence; and
b)    acquire a full season Designated Waters Licence for the region they are fishing in.

There would be no cost associated for the region in which a resident angler purchases their licence (their ‘home region’).

All other regional Designated Waters Licences would carry a cost of $5.00 to fund the higher management costs of these fisheries.

Only resident whole season licence holders could be issued a full season Designated Waters Licence.

For non-resident anglers, they would be required to:
a)    hold a non-resident whole-season licence; and
b)    purchase a Designated Waters Day Licence on the day/s they want to go fishing on a Designated Water.

The cost of the Designated Waters Day Licence could be aligned with the cost of a regular non-resident angler day licence (currently $35) or set at a fixed fee of $50 reflective of the increased management costs of these fisheries and to align with international pricing for comparable fisheries.

These licences would be for one calendar day rather than a 24 hour period.

A non-resident whole season licence holder would also be restricted in the number of Designated Waters Day Licences they could purchase.

It is proposed that each non-resident whole season licence holder would be able to purchase a maximum of three to six Designated Waters Day Licences per Fish and Game region per season.

This range has been chosen as a starting point because it will not restrict most non-resident anglers, as surveys of non-resident anglers demonstrate the majority do not fish backcountry fisheries (roughly indicative of Designated Waters) and those that do typically visit these waters fish these waters fewer than four days on backcountry fisheries across the entire country.

As such, most non-resident anglers will be largely unaffected by this proposal and only the small proportion of anglers that are contributing to unsustainable angling pressure will be restricted.

What will happen to the Backcountry Licence Endorsement?

FGNZ8684A2If the Designated Waters Licence is adopted, the Backcountry Licence Endorsement will no longer be needed and will be discontinued.

Many (but not all) of the rivers which currently require a Backcountry Licence Endorsement are pressure sensitive fisheries so may become Designated Waters.

How will regional Fish and Game Councils decide on which streams/rivers to classify as Designated Waters?

Deciding on which rivers/streams to classify as Designated Waters is a regional Fish and Game Council decision.

Regional Fish and Game Councils have collected relevant information on pressure sensitive fisheries which they manage.

This information can include findings from angler surveys, angler usage assessments and angler feedback.

Fish and Game Councils will publicly notify anglers about any proposal to classify a stream/river as a Designated Water so anglers can provide feedback in support or opposition.

This will take place during the annual regulations review, in approximately March-June each year.

However, as noted above it is likely that a number of backcountry fisheries will become Designated Waters and as such, they provide an indication of waters likely to be Designated.

Currently, seven Fish and Game regions have Backcountry Fisheries:

o   Rangitikei River
o   Whakaurekou River

o   Goulter River
o   Matakitaki River
o   Travers River
o   Wairau River

West Coast
o   Karamea River
o   Mokihinui River

North Canterbury
o   Hope River
o   Hurunui River, Upper & South Branch
o   Waiau River

Central South Island
o   Ohau River

o   Caples River
o   Dingle Burn
o   Greenstone River
o   Hunter River
o   Lochy River
o   Nevis River
o   Pomahaka River
o   Wilkin River
o   Young River

o   Clinton River
o   Ettrick Burn
o   Upper Oreti River
o   Worsley River

How the Designated Waters Licence would work?

How the Designated Waters Licence would work for resident and non-resident anglers – a hypothetical example

For illustration purposes, suppose that the Southland Fish and Game Council decides to classify the upper Oreti River as a Designated Water and the Otago Fish and Game Council decides to classify the Caples River as a Designated Water.

Resident anglers and non-resident anglers will interact differently with these fisheries.

Resident Anglers

For a resident angler that wants to fish the upper Oreti they would need the following licences:
a)    a whole season Fish and Game licence; and
b)    a Southland full season Designated Waters Licence. If they are a Southland licence holder, this would be free. If not, this would cost $5.

This angler could then fish on the upper Oreti throughout the open season without further restrictions. If they then wanted to fish the Caples River in the Otago Region, they would also need to purchase an Otago full-season Designated Waters Licence at a cost of $5.

If a resident angler does not want to fish on any Designated Waters, they would not need to buy a regional Designated Waters Licence (or get their home region endorsed for free).

Non-resident Anglers

For a non-resident angler that wants to go fishing on the upper Oreti they would need the following licences:
a)    a whole-season Fish and Game licence; and
b)    a Designated Waters Day Licence for each day they wanted to fish the Upper Oreti.

This angler might decide to go fishing on the Oreti for two days and another Southland Designated Water for two days. This would mean they reach the Designated Waters limit for the Southland region (if the limit was four). This angler could continue to fish anywhere in Southland, except Southland Designated Waters (as noted above, fewer than 2% of fisheries).

However, this same angler, having reached their Southland Designated Waters limit, is able to fish Designated Waters in any other Fish and Game region. If they wanted to go fishing on the Caples River in Otago, they would need to buy an Otago Designated Waters Day Licence for the day they go fishing on the Caples River. They would then have three further days available to fish Designated Waters in the Otago Fish and Game region. 

Overview of different classifications of fisheries

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Click the image above to see a larger version.