A group has been formed called “Kiwianglers First” , with the aim of reforming the management of what is left of our freshwater angling.
The decline of our fishing and degradation of our rivers has become the number one topic of discussion in the angling magazines, and indeed in the wider media as well, where the prospect that rivers may be “unswimable” has come as a shock to ordinary New Zealanders.
Year after year, as our best rivers continue their downward spiral, the magnificent trout and salmon fishing that existed just a generation ago is receding into memory. And soon, if this process continues, there will be precious little left worth trying to save from the greed of so-called “developers”. These trends are obvious to all of us, yet we seem powerless to prevent them, while Fish and Game’s best efforts, over many decades, have done little to stem the tide.
There is much less angling, per capita, than there used to be. The main-stem rivers are more intensively fished, while much of the back- country - formerly the cream of our fishing - has long been overrun by helicopter-borne overseas tourists.
This is not what was intended when trout and salmon were introduced to New Zealand. The goal then was to create a democratically-owned fishery that would be the property of all New Zealanders - in distinct contrast to the system of private and privileged ownership then obtaining in Europe. It was never anticipated that this new fishery would be made available without limit to the entire angling population of the world. Nor was there any intention that the fishery would come to support a small army of commercial entrepreneurs, operating rent-free and with no obligation to compensate the true owners of the fishery.
The rot is now very far-advanced. All of our surviving rivers - their topography and access-points broadcast to the world on Google - are wide open to invasion by a growing army of freelance tourists and so-called “trout bums” who, for a nominal sum, are permitted to camp upon and virtually subsist on the riverbanks for weeks or months on end.
The great days of the back-country are already history, and, as tourist numbers continue to swell the pressure has inexorably shifted to the front-country streams and the lowland rivers. No waterway, however small or formerly obscure, is now secure from the tourist influx.
This must not be allowed to continue. There is no requirement whatever that we be obliged to surrender our inheritance of angling to being overwhelmed by visitors to our country. Nor should we accept an open-ended expansion of commercial guiding, the private capture of fisheries, or the development of exclusive lodges on rivers that belong to us all.
Limits have been reached, and indeed exceeded. Our automatic generosity to all-comers - our presumption to provide fishing for the world - has resulted in the worst of all possible outcomes. We must now seize back the initiative.
Our situation is far from unique. It has been experienced in other countries, where the remedy has invariably been based upon nothing more obscure than a recognition that since long-held traditions have become obsolete, fisheries management must change as well.
Our Group is promoting a four-step plan first mooted by Nick King, an angling guide who has witnessed at first-hand the pillaging of our fisheries. The plan (set out below) is simple, indeed self-explanatory. It depends upon a ranking of interests within the New Zealand freshwater fishery, and the development of management strategies in accord with this order of priorities. It is not, by any measure, an extreme approach: it does not seek a ban on commercial guiding, or the indiscriminate exclusion of overseas anglers. But it does require that limits be set, in accord with the interests of New Zealanders.
We will campaign for the adoption of this strategy by Fish and Game, and we seek your support in doing so.
It is time to reclaim our fisheries.
The Four Step Plan.
Picture the component parts of New Zealand angling in order of status. Once identified it is a matter of understanding that if any part lower in rank negatively affects anything above, new restrictions would apply.
1. The Fishery.
2. Citizens and Residents of New Zealand.
3. New Zealand Commercial Guides
4. Non Resident Anglers.
It is a basic, fair model that’s impossible to refute the hierarchy. We would suggest that the nuts and bolts to make this plan work would be developed by Fish & Game in consultation with kiwi anglers, as have all the other rules that we have in place today.
Core members of the group are: Convenor, David Linklater, Bruce Mcgavin, Melvin Tudor, Murrary Smart, JohnThomson, Robin Hulsbosch, Chris Hyndman, John Dean, John Highton, Dave Witherow, Ray Grubb, Jim Grierson, John Pryor.